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Ivanovic avoids red card, fires Chelsea past Aston Villa

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The Canadian Press
8/21/2013 5:28:58 PM
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LONDON -- Branislav Ivanovic's second-half header gave Chelsea a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa moments after he avoided a red card in a fiery second match of the Premier League season on Wednesday.

The right back was only booked for elbowing Christian Benteke in the head, and then sent Frank Lampard's free kick into the net in the 73rd minute.

"This is English football, for some reason the world loves it more than any other league -- one thing is (because of) a real aggression I would call it," Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said. "Another thing is duels that are handled in a certain way and I think the referee did very well.

"From minute 1 to minute 95 there was a real fight -- a football fight between Benteke and Ivanovic."

Chelsea fortuitously went in front after seven minutes when the ball inadvertently bounced off Antonio Luna into his own net.

Although Chelsea faded, allowing Benteke to level in first-half stoppage time, Villa couldn't find the net again and replicate its surprise victory at Arsenal on Saturday.

Instead, Ivanovic ensured Mourinho's second spell at Stamford Bridge has started with back-to-back league wins.

"A draw wouldn't have been an unfair result -- they fought a lot," Mourinho said. "They created great difficulties."

The victory gives Chelsea an early edge over its title rivals, with this game moved forward by almost two weeks due to the Europa League winners' Supercup match against Champions League winner Bayern Munich.

After scoring eight past Villa in this fixture last season, Chelsea did not find it as easy going this season -- even after going in front so early.

A fine pass from Oscar set up Eden Hazard on the left of the penalty area and the Belgium midfielder's resulting shot was pushed by goalkeeper Brad Guzan onto Luna and the ball bounced off him into his net.

Just like in Sunday's 2-0 victory over Hull, Chelsea was overwhelming the opposition, with its incisive and superior football -- initially at least.

But after failing to extend its lead -- Oscar struck wide and Demba Ba forced Guzan into a low save -- Chelsea conceded for the first time this season.

In the third minute of stoppage time, Gabriel Agbonlahor cut down the left and crossed low to Benteke, who controlled the ball with his first touch and then curled the shot around Petr Cech's near post.

Villa came close to taking the lead in the second half, with Agbonlahor curling over and Andreas Weimann only denied at close range by Cech.

As Villa came close to bursting Mourinho's early-season joy, the newly self-styled "Happy One" looked more like the combative manager of the 2004-07 spell at Chelsea as he raged at the referee.

But Kevin Friend then delighted Mourinho by only booking Ivanovic for his foul on Benteke, ensuring he was still on the pitch to meet Lampard's free kick with a free header.

"He clearly elbowed Christian Benteke, it was a sending off," Villa manager Paul Lambert said.

Cech's reflexes were required to deny Weimann again in the 86th, using his legs to block the shot.

And Lambert's fury boiled over in stoppage time when his side was denied a penalty after Chelsea captain John Terry's raised arm blocked Benteke's header.

"The penalty was a penalty, everybody saw that," Lambert said. "He missed two huge moments. How can you miss that magnitude of a decision? It is beyond me."

Mourinho dismissed Lambert's protests.

"(Lambert) reminds myself of 10 years ago when I was complaining of every decision ... he complains about every decision," Mourinho said.

Branislav Ivanovic (Photo: Canadian Press)

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(Photo: Canadian Press)
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