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Aston Villa 0-1 Chelsea

By Phil McNulty

Nicolas Anelka
Anelka rounded off a superb Chelsea move with a delicate chip over Brad Friedel

Guus Hiddink's Chelsea reign started with a vital victory at Aston Villa that keeps their flickering Premier League title hopes alive.

Nicolas Anelka sealed the points with a clever finish in the 19th minute after he was set up by Frank Lampard.

John Terry saw a header saved by Brad Friedel and another cleared off the line by Stiliyan Petrov.

Ashley Young struck the bar with a free-kick for Villa in the first half, but Chelsea survived to seal the win.

It was a display of contrasts from Hiddink's new charges, with Chelsea outstanding in the first 45 minutes, but showing signs of vulnerability after the break when Martin O'Neill's side pressed.

Hiddink, however, will only be interested the three points that take them above Villa into third place in the table.

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Hiddink pleased with Chelsea spirit

The Dutch coach, in temporary charge until the end of the season, was able to restore Terry after suspension and paired Anelka and Didier Drogba in attack.

And he was rewarded with an early goal, beautifully created by Lampard and expertly finished by Anelka.

Lampard demonstrated superb close control to dribble out of a tight situation then provide a perfect pass for Anelka to chip over the advancing Friedel for his 21st goal of the season.

Terry almost doubled Villa's lead just after the half-hour with a powerful header from Lampard's corner, but Friedel reacted well to palm the ball to safety.

PHIL MCNULTY BLOG

Villa's only serious first-half threat came after 33 minutes, when referee Mark Halsey awarded a contentious free-kick when Emile Heskey tumbled under the tamest of challenges from John Obi Mikel.

Young curled a 20-yard effort against the bar, and Heskey headed the rebound wide when he should have scored.

Terry was again thwarted from a Lampard corner three minutes after the interval, when Petrov cleared his header off the line.

It was the signal for Villa to finally show some of the power and pace that elevated them to third place in the Premier League before kick-off.

Gabriel Agbonlahor tested Petr Cech after muscling Alex aside, and the keeper also saved well from Gareth Barry as Villa started to exert some concerted pressure.

O'Neill backs 'leggy' Villa to bounce back

Chelsea rediscovered their attacking instincts as Villa pressed for the equaliser, with Drogba shooting off target from a tight angle and Friedel saving well from Jose Bosingwa after he was played in by the striker.

Substitute Deco showed sublime skill to set up Michael Ballack in stoppage time, but Friedel was equal to the task and turned his rising drive over the top.

Villa were unable to mount a response and the importance of Chelsea's victory was emphasised by the celebrations at the final whistle.


Aston Villa: Friedel, Cuellar, Davies (Carew 70), Knight, Luke Young, Milner, Petrov, Barry, Ashley Young, Heskey, Agbonlahor.
Subs Not Used: Guzan, Sidwell, Delfouneso, Salifou, Shorey, Gardner.

Booked: Cuellar.

Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Alex, Terry, Ferreira, Mikel, Ballack, Lampard, Kalou (Deco 55), Anelka, Drogba (Belletti 90).
Subs Not Used: Hilario, Ivanovic, Quaresma, Mancienne, Stoch.

Booked: Ballack, Bosingwa, Terry.

Goals: Anelka 19.

Att: 42,585

Ref: Mark Halsey (Lancashire).


BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Chelsea's Frank Lampard 7.94 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

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see also
Hiddink wants more from strikers
21 Feb 09 |  Premier League
Premier League as it happened
21 Feb 09 |  Premier League
Saturday's football photos
21 Feb 09 |  Football
Chelsea confirm Hiddink as coach
11 Feb 09 |  Chelsea


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