Fernando Torres hit his first Premier League goal in six months to seal a 4-2 victory for Chelsea at Villa Park and nip a spirited Aston Villa fightback.
Goals from Daniel Sturridge and Branislav Ivanovic looked to have given Chelsea the victory with the visitors leading 2-0 with little over ten minutes remaining but James Collins and Eric Lichaj stunned the visitors to set up a rousing finale.
Ivanovic then struck again before Torres scored his first goal since September as Chelsea moved to within two points of fourth-placed Tottenham.
Chelsea hit their stride from the whistle, David Luiz finding Torres with a great ball only for the Spaniard to shoot straight at Shay Given with the goal gaping.
Moments later, Chelsea were ahead and once again Torres played a part. Juan Mata was the architect, squaring his cross from the by-line straight into the Spaniard’s path only for Stephen Warnock to fling himself at the striker’s feet and block the shot brilliantly. The ball could have gone anywhere but it fell to Sturridge, who simply couldn’t miss.
The excellent Mata almost made it two shortly after, the play maker flicking the ball over Given only to see his shot rebound off the post. Once again, it looked as if Torres would slot the rebound but this time it was Nathan Baker who was on hand to block the goal bound effort.
Villa’s efforts were few and far between, Collins flashing a header over the bar from a corner and Gabriel Agbonlahor sporadically worrying the Chelsea defence with his pace.
Moments into the second half, Chelsea were further ahead, Mata’s corner falling kindly for Ivanovic to stab home after the ball hit Baker’s arm. With Chelsea playing the ball around with relative comfort and Villa lacking for ideas, that looked like that with little over 11 minutes left on the clock.
But it only takes a goal to turn a match around and when Lichaj’s long throw evaded the statuesque Chelsea defence, Collins was on hand to head in. Chelsea barely had time to regroup before the scores were level. Marc Albrighton ghosted past John Terry before crossing exquisitely to the far post, Lichaj on hand to poke the ball home.
The home fans were urging their team on when the comeback was nipped in the bud with Ivanovic heading in from Torres’s flick on. And the influential Spaniard had the last laugh, latching onto a neat pass from Sturridge to slide past Given with the kind of assured finish that had been lacking for so long.