THEY rolled out the red carpet for John Terry but there was no old pals’ act for the Chelsea legend’s first return to Stamford Bridge.
The last time the most successful captain in the club’s history was here, he was carried off shoulder high by his team-mates.
This time he had to settle for a place in the visitors’ dug-out as part of Villa’s coaching team.
But the Chelsea faithful still regard him very much as one of their own and gave him the kind of welcome reserved for Blues royalty.
First they rolled out a massive ‘Terry 26’ banner depicting all his trophies across the Matthew Harding End then serenaded their former defender with the old ‘John Terry has won the double’ song.
What a pity his former team-mates were not quite so accommodating.
And how unfortunate that Tammy Abraham was not quite so generous to his former club.
Chelsea’s young England striker scored 26 goals for Aston Villa on loan with Dean Smith’s team last season to help win promotion to the Premier League.
Yet when his chance came to bury the club who helped to set him on the road to stardom, he did not hesitate to stick the knife in.
He might not have celebrated his 23rd minute goal which set Chelsea on their way to their first win in four games, but he did just about everything else to make Smith’s life a misery.
Back after missing Saturday’s shock defeat by West Ham with a hip injury, Abraham was clearly keen to show the travelling Villa fans just what they are missing.
No wonder he was applauded off by both sets of supporters when he limped out of the action ten minutes from the end.
Villa, beaten in their last eight Premier League visits to London, arrived at the Bridge just three points away from the relegation zone.
And they were on the back foot straight away when they were opened up on the counter by Christian Pulisic before Willian’s ferocious shot was beaten away by Tom Heaton.
Mason Mount sent a tame header straight at the Villa keeper and then blazed yards over the bar when he was presented with another scoring opportunity just seconds later.
And when Pulisic was just beaten to the punch by Ahmed El Mohamady as they competed for Willian’s inviting cross, you could sense the tension starting to kick in among the home supporters.
They need not have worried. Villa’s defence were starting to creak under the pressure and after 23 minutes they were blown wide apart.
Reece James’ chip in from the right picked out Abraham drifting in behind the dozing Ezri Konsa and Chelsea’s leading scorer made no mistake with his unchallenged header.
He did not celebrate his 12th goal of the season out of respect for the Villa fans behind the goal but he was clearly relishing his battle of the giants with international pal Tyrone Mings.
Ten minutes after opening the scoring, he was clearing a Villa corner at one end and then leading the counter attack which required a last-ditch intervention by Mings.
But just when it seemed that Chelsea were ready to turn the screw, they were undone once again by their defensive shortcomings.
El Mohamady was given far too much time out wide to deliver a 42nd minute cross which was missed by both Wesley and Andreas Christensen but bundled in by Trezeguet.
Chelsea were desperately hoping that VAR might back up their appeals for handball by Villa’s Egyptian international.
But the TV replays merely confirmed that Trezeguet had inadvertently nudged the ball over the line after somehow heading straight down onto his own boot.
It means Chelsea have now managed just four clean sheets in 23 games in all competitions this season.
No team with serious title ambitions can afford to be so generous at the back but at least they have the firepower at the other end of the pitch to give them a fighting chance.
That much was evident three minutes into the second-half when they regained the lead which they had so carelessly surrendered just before the break.
Not for the first time Villa’s defence stood off Willian to allow the opportunity to cross from the right for Abraham to lay off to Mount with his chest.
The young midfielder’s finishing might have been unconvincing earlier in the game, but there was nothing wrong with his connection this time as he sent a superb right-foot volley into the top corner.
Abraham could have made life more comfortable for Frank Lamaprd but flicked a 73rd minute shot just the wrong side of the far post.
Willian’s late free-kick was brilliantly tipped against the post by the flying Heaton and Villa sub Douglas Luiz almost snatched a last-gasp equaliser with a firm header which Kepa did well to shovel around for a corner.
But there were to be no late heroics for Terry who departed with one last hug for Lampard and a wave to the fans who will never forget his contribution to their glory years.
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