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Blues tighten top-four grip to push Villa towards drop

Aston Villa 1 Chelsea 2

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Olivier Giroud (left) scores the winning goal for Chelsea at Villa Park. Photo: PA

Olivier Giroud (left) scores the winning goal for Chelsea at Villa Park. Photo: PA

PA

Olivier Giroud (left) scores the winning goal for Chelsea at Villa Park. Photo: PA

Chelsea strengthened their grip on the top four after a quick-fire comeback gave them a win at struggling Aston Villa.

Two goals in as many second-half minutes from Christian Pulisic and Olivier Giroud boosted the Blues' Champions League hopes. Frank Lampard's men are now five points ahead of fifth-placed Manchester United after making their return to action following the Premier League's enforced break.

Kortney Hause's first Premier League goal had given Villa a first-half lead against the run of play. Dean Smith's team avoided defeat against Sheffield United on Wednesday thanks to a glitch with the goal line cameras but they were well beaten here.

The loss kept them in the bottom three as they again missed a golden chance to boost their survival bid after relegation rivals Bournemouth and West Ham lost on Saturday. Despite taking the lead they were too passive and are staring at an immediate return to the Sky Bet Championship.

Hungry

Lampard singled Pulisic out for praise. "He was hungry, I know that and I felt for him. He has trained well. The ability to arrive in the box is a big thing," Lampard said.

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Aston Villa goalkeeper Orjan Nyland saves a shot from Willian. Photo: PA

Aston Villa goalkeeper Orjan Nyland saves a shot from Willian. Photo: PA

PA

Aston Villa goalkeeper Orjan Nyland saves a shot from Willian. Photo: PA

"It is a difference between being a very good player on the flank and a top-class player. With Christian and Ross (Barkley) they both have trained well, I have selection problems, good ones. I had them on my mind to come on early in the second half."

A defiant Dean Smith insisted Aston Villa have what it takes to stay up despite their fifth league loss in six.

"We're no further away from Bournemouth and the other teams down there," Smith replied, when asked if his side have enough to beat the drop. "We've got a good enough chance as the other teams down there."

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Christian Pulisic chips a cross in between Aston Villa's Trezeguet (right) and Matt Targett. Photo: PA

Christian Pulisic chips a cross in between Aston Villa's Trezeguet (right) and Matt Targett. Photo: PA

PA

Christian Pulisic chips a cross in between Aston Villa's Trezeguet (right) and Matt Targett. Photo: PA

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Players from both sides clash. Photo: REUTERS

Players from both sides clash. Photo: REUTERS

REUTERS

Players from both sides clash. Photo: REUTERS

Irish Independent