English Premiership

Chelsea on song at Villa

2012-03-31 18:25
Fernando Torres (File)

Birmingham - Aston Villa honoured captain Stiliyan Petrov, who has been diagnosed with acute leukaemia, with an impressive fightback against Chelsea on Saturday, only for the Londoners to triumph 4-2.

Goals from Daniel Sturridge and Branislav Ivanovic looked set to earn a routine win for the Stamford Bridge club until goals from James Collins and Eric Lichaj in the space of three minutes pulled Aston Villa level once again.

Then Ivanovic touched in from close-range once again before Fernando Torres broke clear to score his first Premier League goal since September to earn Chelsea three points on an emotional afternoon at Villa Park.

Bulgaria international midfielder Petrov, 32, was diagnosed with the illness on Friday and will begin his treatment in London on Monday.

The former Celtic player was in the crowd and was pictured in a hospitality box just before kick-off, while a statement was read out on his behalf.

He said: "With the help and love of my family, my team-mates, all of my friends in football, Aston Villa and all of the fans, I am sure I will beat this illness and I am determined to do this.

"I saw the picture released by Fabrice Muamba, my fellow player, and it has inspired me as has all of the support in the past 24 hours."

Villa manager Alex McLeish had vowed his team would attempt to win the game for their captain but Chelsea were always in control.

Torres wasted an early chance but after eight minutes, the visitors made the breakthrough through Sturridge.

Salomon Kalou clipped a cross in from the left and after Nathan Baker went down under Torres' challenge, Juan Mata pulled back for Torres once more and when his effort was blocked by Stephen Warnock, Sturridge tapped in from close range.

Villa's first opening came when Andreas Weimann flicked a header in behind the Chelsea defence and Gabriel Agbonlahor raced clear of David Luiz to finish only to be called back for offside.

John Obi Mikel threatened to add a second when his powerful effort deflected off Baker and James Collins before being gathered by Given.

After both sets of supporters rose to applaud throughout minute 19, in honour of Petrov's shirt number, the hosts went close to drawing level when Collins headed over from a corner from Barry Bannan.

But Chelsea always carried the greater threat and should have moved clear thanks to more fine work from Mata.

The Spaniard cut in from the left and fed Kalou and via a pass from Torres, Mata was through before clipping a shot past Given that came back off the post before Baker blocked from Torres.

Luiz also sparked panic in his own area when he headed a whipped cross from Warnock narrowly wide of his own goal before Baker diverted a shot from the Bannan corner that followed just over the bar.

Sturridge was denied once again when he cut in from the right flank and hit a low shot from 25 yards.

When Villa finally created a good opportunity from a lofted ball into the area, Peter Cech did well to block a low effort from Agbonlahor with his legs.

Any hope of a comeback suffered a major blow five minutes after half-time when Ivanovic prodded in from close-range from a Mata corner.

But the hosts pulled one back when Collins headed in from the edge of the area from a long throw from Lichaj.

Defender Lichaj then tore up in support to touch in at the far post from a cross from Marc Albrighton.

But Ivanovic was in the right place once again to finish from close-range after Torres flicked on a Florent Malouda corner.

Torres then finished off a quick break to fire in his first Premier League goal since September.

Read more on:    chelsea  |  english premiership  |  soccer
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