PREMIER LEAGUE: Chelsea survive scare to eventually roll Villa
There was plenty of support at Villa Park for captain Stiliyan Petrov who was yesterday diagnosed with leukaemia with the home fans giving him a standing ovation on a few occasions.
The Blues skipped away to a two-goal lead and Villa almost came back from the dead to equalise before the visitors netted twice late to go within five points of Arsenal who still hold third after their 2-1 defeat at QPR.
Daniel Sturridge opened the day's scoring in the ninth minute when he fired home from close range after Juan Mata cut back for Fernando Torres whose initial attempt was blocked by the Villa defence to fall for the England youngster.
Roberto Di Matteo's men doubled their lead six minutes into the second half when defender Branislav Ivanovic was fortunate to have Mata's corner hit him without him knowing much about it but he managed to toe-poke home from inside the six-yard box.
Villa hit back in the 77th minute when James Collins powered home a header from Eric Lichaj's long throw-in three minutes before the American slid home his first Premier League goal from Marc Albrighton's low leftwing cross at the back post to give Alex McLeish's side hope.
But that was snuffed out in the 83rd minute when Ivanovic grabbed a rare double, this time with a front post header from Torres' neat flick-on, before the Spaniard got in on the act with a neat finish from the edge of the area after latching on to Sturridge's through ball in injury time.
It was a powerful finish from Chelsea and one that could give them plenty of confidence with FA Cup and Champions League still to play for as Villa sit perilously close to those sides trying to escape the drop zone.
TRIBAL ASKS: Is Chelsea's current form good enough to give a scar in the Champions League? Are they capable of finishing third in the league? Where does this leave Villa? Is relegation a danger or are they far enough in front>?
Villa Park, Birmingham - 34,740
Yellow cards:AV - Stephen Warnock 58' CHE - nil