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Hazard and Ivanovic give Chelsea 2-1 victory over Aston Villa to increase league lead

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BIRMINGHAM, England — Eden Hazard and Branislav Ivanovic scored as Chelsea beat Aston Villa 2-1 Saturday and won at Villa Park for the first time in the Premier League under manager Jose Mourinho.

With Manchester City drawing against Hull, the win meant Chelsea extended its lead at the top of the table to seven points.

Eden Hazard put Chelsea ahead after only eight minutes when Oscar broke down the right and picked out Willian, who fed the ball to Hazard to score past United States goalkeeper Brad Guzan.

Jores Okore equalized for Villa on 48 minutes with a free header from Carles Gil's delivery — ending an astonishing 11-hour goal drought for Paul Lambert's side. Its last goal in the league came on Dec. 20 in a 1-1 draw with Manchester United.

But Ivanovic restored Chelsea's lead in the 66th.

Cesar Azpilicueta sent over a cross from the left and Ivanovic met it with a formidable left-footed strike.

The Serbia defender has now scored five times in his last seven games against Villa.

PHOTO: Chelsea's Eden Hazard celebrates after scoring against Villa during the English Premier League soccer match between Aston Villa and Chelsea at Villa Park, Birmingham, England, Saturday, Feb 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
Chelsea's Eden Hazard celebrates after scoring against Villa during the English Premier League soccer match between Aston Villa and Chelsea at Villa Park, Birmingham, England, Saturday, Feb 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

Aston Villa started the game with striker Christian Benteke on the bench alongside Colombia international Juan Cuadrado, Chelsea's transfer deadline day signing.

Chelsea capped a strong start with Hazard's goal and Villa had Guzan to thank for keeping it at 1-0 with impressive saves soon after from Gary Cahill and Oscar.

It appeared ominous for the hosts but Villa grew back into the game. It ended the first half positively and took only three minutes of the second to level through Okore.

But the goal forced Chelsea to raise its performance and Villa was only on level terms for 18 minutes before Ivanovic rocketed in the winner.

"I have mixed emotions, I thought we were excellent and undeservedly lost the game," Villa manager Lambert said. "The equalizer was deserved, Carles does fantastic on the byline and at that moment I thought it looked as if the team could go and win. We had been creating chances before that and not taking them."

Benteke replaced Gabriel Agbonlahor after 68 minutes as Villa looked to make its bright spell count but Chelsea stifled the home team after moving ahead.

Cuadrado came on with 10 minutes remaining as his new side held on for a vital victory to move further clear above defending champion City.

"We had a good reaction after their goal and, after that, we controlled the game," Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said. "Obviously it is a very important victory for us. There is a long way to go, the Premier League is the Premier League and every game is difficult.

"It is the only league in the world where the teams from the bottom, they can play the teams from the top and not just make it difficult, they can win matches and points."

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