Chelsea came from behind to snatch a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa and extend the gap between them and fifth-place Manchester United to five points.
With Manchester United and Wolves closing in on Chelsea, the Blues needed a win to go five points clear and sit comfortably in the top four.
Going into the halftime, things appeared to be headed south for the Blues, after a lapse in concentration from the defenders allowed Kortney Hause a chance to score the opener for Villa in the 43rd minute.
Chelsea changed their fortune in the second half when Christian Pulisic came off the bench to score his sixth goal of the season, tucking home Azpiliqueta’s cross in the 60th minute.
Olivier Giroud continued his fine form and completed the comeback, finishing a well-worked ball into the box with a sweetly struck effort that deflected its way in.
The blues have picked up right where they dropped before the COVID-19 break and need this high momentum going into the City game.
Below are match ratings from the win.
GK — Kepa: 7
The Spaniard had a solid outing for the Blues. He was, however, let down by his defenders, leading to Villa’s 43rd-minute opener.
RB — Azpiliqueta: 8
The Chelsea captain today proved how important he is for Frank Lampard. He put in a superb performance and played a vital role in Chelsea’s win by assisting both goals. With five assists, the Spaniard is now the club’s top assist provider this season alongside Willian.
CB — Christensen: 6
Although the Chelsea defender was sloppy and switched off during Villa’s goal, he had a solid defensive outing. The 24-year-old showed his aerial prowess by winning seven aerial duels, the most by any player in the game and completing 11 long passes with a 100% accuracy.
CB — Rudiger: 5
A dire performance from Rudiger. A lack of defensive awareness was a reason behind the Villa goal as the German failed to follow his marker. He was also sloppy on the ball and regularly gave his teammate troubles with over-hit passes. All round, he performed averagely.
LB — Marcos Alonso: 6
The full-back was composed defensively throughout the match. He, however, failed to contribute meaningfully offensively as he was let down by his poor crossing into the box.
DM — N’Golo Kante: 8
A perfect evening for the 29-year-old. Defensively, he was everywhere, completing tackles, stopping breaks and even challenging for headers. He also shut-out Aston Villa’s star Jack Grealish. Going forward, he was equally superb. He gave two key passes and nine accurate long passes.
CM — Kovacic: 6
The Croatian had a quiet game. He was excellent with his passing with a 91.8% accuracy. He was replaced by Ross Barkley.
CM — Mason Mount: 7
A fantastic performance from the Englishman. He looked like he never went on break as he was active on both sides of the pitch. He had a decent effort from outside the box pushed wide in the first half and almost had an assist in the second. He impressed the fans with his dribbling and played a key role in the build-up to the equalizer.
RW — Willian: 5
The winger put in a sub-par performance. A series of poor set pieces and decision making were highlights as he made no telling contribution.
LW — Ruben Loftus-Cheek: 5
A surprise name in the Chelsea starting eleven, Ruben Loftus-Cheek made his return to Premier League action after being out for over a year.
This return wasn’t one the fans would enjoy, however, as the 24-year-old was sloppy the entire game and should have scored a goal. One could pin this to his lack of match fitness. He made way for Christian Pulisic in the 55th minute.
ST — Giroud: 7
A Classy performance from the French international. He was strong aerially winning five of eight aerial duels for the Blues. He scored the winner after linking up with his teammates in the build-up to the goal.
Christian Pulisic: 7 (55th minute)
Christian Pulisic once again played the role of super-sub for Chelsea. Barely five minutes after coming in, he grabbed Chelsea’s equalizer, converting Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross in the 60th minute. The boss called on him and Captain America came to the rescue.
Ross Barkley: 6 (55th minute)
Decent performance of the bench. He cooled the match tempo for the blues as the Villa players came charging for an equalizer.
Tammy Abraham: 6 (80th minute)
Did not play much but missed a chance to double the lead after failing to keep his header on target from a Chelsea corner.
Reece James: (90th minute)
No meaningful contribution.