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Mon 6 Oct 2008 01:41 AM

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Ruthless Chelsea brush aside Villa to stay top

The Blues end Villa's four-match run but fear Joe Cole is another casualty.

Nicolas Anelka ensured injury-ravaged Chelsea remain top of the Premier League as the France striker sealed his side's 2-0 win over Aston Villa on Sunday.Blues boss Luiz Felipe Scolari is without a host of star names but Chelsea made light of those absences thanks to first half goals from Joe Cole and Anelka at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea have now gone 86 home matches without defeat, but this scoreline brings an end to Aston Villa's four-match run without a loss in the league.

There was some bad news for Chelsea, though. The Blues are already in the midst of an injury crisis with Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, Ricardo Carvalho, Alex and Deco all sidelined, and Joe Cole may now be added to the list as he limped out of action in the second half.

Scolari handed a first Premier League start to Serbian defender Branislav Ivanovic, signed back in January from Lokomotiv Moscow.

England internationals Joe Cole and Ashley Cole returned to the side while Anelka stepped into attack.

On a wet afternoon, Chelsea started well, using the slick surface to their advantage as they tried to cut their visitors open with sharp passing.

Within five minutes Portuguese full-back Jose Bosingwa cut in to tee up midfielder Michael Ballack, but his low drive from 25 yards was pushed away by goalkeeper Brad Friedel.

Frenchman Florent Malouda was next to test the American stopper with a spinning drive and Anelka came close after getting the better of Aston Villa's Curtis Davies.

Frank Lampard has scored five times this term, but should have added another to his tally on 18 minutes as he headed wide from a neat Anelka lobbed pass. The Chelsea midfielder made up for his missed opportunity within three minutes, though.

Malouda burst forward to find Lampard, who in turn picked out Cole arriving on the edge of the box. The former West Ham player had one touch before sending a drilled effort high into Friedel's net to give Chelsea a deserved lead.

Scolari was all smiles as Chelsea continued to dominate and Anelka thumped a ferocious shot against the bar on 25 minutes.

The corresponding fixture from last season ended in a thrilling 4-4 draw, but it was difficult to see how the visiting side would find any way through Chelsea's latest defensive pairing of Ivanovic and John Terry.

Forward John Carew was often a lone figure in attack, with Gabriel Agbolahor dropping into wider roles to try and get the ball.

As the half-time break approached, Villa manager Martin O'Neill will have been desperate to give his players a new game-plan, but the match was virtually over before he was given the chance as Chelsea scored number two.

Friedel made a great stop from Ballack, then an instinctive close range stop from Anelka, but could do little as the forward slotted home at the second attempt from four yards.

Within two minutes of the restart, O'Neill's side produced their best moment of the game, as a Stilian Petrov's shot flashed wide.

There was concern for Chelsea, and watching England manager Fabio Capello, as Joe Cole limped off on 57 minutes, with what looked to be a foot injury.

Cole had only just overcome a hip problem, but the signs did not look good as he limped away down the tunnel.

Ballack should have put the game beyond doubt as he missed the target from close range on 64 minutes.

Friedel made another stop, this time from substitute Salomon Kalou, to keep the scoreline down, but this turned out to be a comfortable afternoon for Chelsea as they head into the international break ahead of Liverpool on goal difference.

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