A second-half Branislav Ivanovic header proved decisive as we recorded a hard-fought win to go top of the Premier League table, albeit having played a game more than everybody else, beating Aston Villa 2-1 at Stamford Bridge.
The Blues took the lead inside seven minutes when Antonio Luna bundled into his own net after Eden Hazard’s effort had been saved by Brad Guzan, but Aston Villa were level on the stroke of half-time when Christian Benteke powered his strike past Petr Cech via the aid of the post.
Our advantage was restored midway through the second half when Ivanovic headed home from a Frank Lampard free-kick, and though Villa went close through Andreas Weimann late in the game, and had a penalty appeal waved away, we held on for a priceless victory.
Attention now turns to our first away game of the new season, a trip to Old Trafford next Monday.
Jose Mourinho made two changes to side which beat Hull City 2-0 on Sunday. The back four remained the same, with Gary Cahill partnering captain John Terry in the centre of defence, while in midfield both Ramires and Frank Lampard – scorer of our second goal against Steve Bruce’s men – retained their places.
Juan Mata, who was an unused substitute at the weekend, was handed a start in place of Kevin De Bruyne alongside Oscar and Eden Hazard, with the trio tucked in behind Demba Ba, who was chosen to lead the line.
Paul Lambert, meanwhile, made just one change to the Aston Villa side following their 3-1 opening-day win at Arsenal, with Ciaran Clark coming in for the injured Nathan Baker.
Both teams went into the game in confident spirits following impressive wins at the weekend, and it was the Blues quickest out of the blocks, taking the lead after only seven minutes with the first attack of any note.
As Aston Villa attempted to clear their lines, Ashley Cole did well to head the ball into the path of Lampard, who in turn found Oscar. The Brazilian, spotting the run of Hazard, opened the visitors up with a defence-splitting pass, and as the Belgian ran on to it and fired towards goal, Brad Guzan’s save cannoned against Luna and rolled into the back of the net.
Hazard understandably took the plaudits, and whether or not the goal was rightly his mattered not a jot to the home supporters – it was the perfect start.
Prior to the goal, Villa had set their stall out by inviting us on and defending in large numbers, and it was clear very early on that the craft and inventiveness of Hazard, Oscar and Mata could play a big part.
It was Chelsea seeing more of the ball early on, and Oscar went close with a drive from outside the penalty area which fizzed over the bar as we looked to extend our advantage.
It took until the 22nd minute for the away side to threaten the Chelsea goal, and though Al Ahmadi’s strike wasn’t far away, it never looked like seriously threatening Petr Cech.
As the 25-minute mark approached, it was the defensive players on display enjoying the greater influence, with clear-cut opportunities at both ends proving hard to come by.
Lampard and Ramires in the Chelsea midfield were trying to open up the play as soon as they received the ball, but with space tight it was no easy task. Oscar again went close just after the half-hour, cutting inside from the right but drilling his shot just past the post.
As an attacking unit, Villa had been non-existent, but two minutes into added time at the end of the first half they equalised against the run of play.
Gabriel Agbonlahor, who had been a peripheral figure for most of the opening 45 minutes, picked the ball up wide on the left and drove towards the byline, and as he pulled the ball back across goal it fell invitingly for Christian Benteke, who took one touch and fired left-footed past Cech for his third goal of the season.
It was a cruel blow on the Blues, particularly coming so late in the half, leaving Mourinho with plenty to ponder at the break.
Both teams emerged unchanged for the second half, and three minutes after the restart we were appealing for a penalty when Demba Ba went down inside the box under the challenge of Villa skipper Ron Vlaar. Referee Kevin Friend, however, gave the decision against us, much to the frustration of the home supporters.
It was a determined Chelsea side taking the game to Villa, with Oscar and Hazard in particular attempting to create an opening. The visitors, though, were working tirelessly all over the pitch in order to nullify our threat.
Villa remained dangerous on the break, however, and just after the hour they almost took the lead when Agbonlahor curled one inches over the bar with Cech rooted to the spot.
Lambert’s side were growing in confidence and moments later they went close again. Benteke crossed to the far post and Andreas Weimann, who had ghosted into the box unchallenged, volleyed wide when he should have done better.
The warning signs were there, and sensing the need for a change Mourinho made a double substitution in the 64th minute, replacing Ba and Mata with Romelu Lukaku and Andre Schurrle.
Tempers were beginning to flare as the game progressed and the desperation to find a decisive goal took hold, with Lambert and Rui Faria exchanging words down on the touchline following an Ivanovic challenge on Benteke.
The Chelsea defender earned a yellow card for his troubles, but two minutes later provided what was potentially a far more significant contribution.
As the Blues were awarded a free-kick wide on the right-hand side, Lampard delivered brilliantly, and the Serbian defender rose highest to power a header into the bottom corner and restore our lead.
The game was heating up all over the pitch, and shortly after it was Benteke who earned himself a yellow card after feigning injury following another tussle with Ivanovic.
Lukaku almost made it 3-1 when he swivelled inside the Villa box and got his shot away, only to see it crash into the side-netting, and the Belgian’s physical presence was giving the Villa defence a different kind of problem.
Villa refused to accept there was nothing left in the game for them and they almost profited with five minutes left to play, but Cech was on hand to thwart Weimann with a brilliant stop low down.
The tension inside the stadium was palpable as the game edged towards its conclusion, with both managers cutting animated figures as they urged their teams on towards a positive conclusion to proceedings.
The Villa bench were on their feet screaming for a penalty in the dying minutes after the ball appeared to strike Terry on the arm from Agbonlahor’s knock-down, and while replays showed it had in fact struck the Chelsea skipper, there was very little he could have done to prevent it.
That proved to be the last action of what was, in the end, a fairly eventful second half, and we held on for a second successive win, one that we were made to fight all the way for.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Cole; Ramires, Lampard; Mata (Mata 64), Oscar (Van Ginkel 83), Hazard; Ba (Lukaku 64).
Unused substitutes:Schwarzer, Azpilicueta, Mikel, De Bruyne.
Scorers Luna (OG) 7, Ivanovic 72
Booked Ivanovic 70
Aston Villa (4-3-3): Guzan; Lowton, Vlaar (c), Clark (Okore 42), Luna; El Ahmadi (Tonev 81), Westwood, Delph; Weimann, Benteke, Agbonlahor.
Unused substitutes:Steer, Bennett, Bacuna, Helenius, Sylla.
Scorer Benteke 45+2
Booked Benteke 75
Referee Kevin Friend