Chelsea 1-0 Aston Villa

When the players that can't get into either side include Tore Andre Flo, Gabriele Ambrosetti and England internationals Paul Merson and Steve Stone - it was obvious that the 22 players who started this game would give a capacity Stamford Bridge crowd a treat.

The irony was that for all the quality on display, it took a mistake to separate the teams - Ugo Ehiogu putting into his own net after Dan Petrescu drove the ball fiercely across the goal after 53 minutes.

But thereafter Chelsea gave their trademark masterclass attacking performance - within minutes of taking the lead, Chris Sutton volleyed an overhead kick inches over the bar, Gus Poyet's diving header skimmed the post and Jody Morris scorched David James' fingertips with a howitzer from outside the box.

Rotation was the name of the game again for Gianluca Vialli's men as Chris Sutton and Marcel Desailly returned to the starting line-up and Jody Morris - who earlier this week expressed his frustration at his lack of first-team chances - also began for the home side.

Morris was up against his doppelganger Lee Hendrie in the midfield - and it was Villa's England international who had the better of the early exchanges. He was released by Julian Joachim and launched a shot that flew over the crossbar, but the warning signs were there.

Bells were ringing when Mark Delaney's cross went to the far post and Dion Dublin's clever backheel just evaded Joachim's outstretched foot.

But Chelsea's form at home this season has been irresistible, and Villa's record last season against Chelsea was played three lost three. They should have broken the deadlock when Gianfranco Zola's defence-splitting pass left Dan Petrescu with a one-on-one but his lob over David James hit the top of the goalnet. Shortly after that Poyet missed a golden opportunity to spur the Villa fans to taunt him with the chant 'Savo, Savo!'

Zola proved he was the man in form when he jinked in the Villa area and looked to be brought down by Ugo Ehiogu. But Neale Barry waved away appeals for a penalty and things weren't going the way of the home side when he took the names of Poyet and Sutton for dissent. Zola then had a free-kick in a dangerous position pushed away as the top corner beckoned.

Ehiogu was involved at the other end when his bullet-header was fantastically clawed away by de Goey, and after Frank Leboeuf hobbled off with a leg injury, Chelsea looked happy to settle for the draw at half-time.

Not so. Ferrer and Petrescu combined down the right and the Spaniard's cross was headed goalwards by Zola. But David James revealed why he could be called up to Kevin Keegan's England squad this week with a sharp reaction block.

Leboeuf was back after the break, and was required to be on his mettle as the threatening Dion Dublin - an outside bet for Keegan's squad? - twice threatened to level the scores. But the best chance fell to Paul Merson, who replaced Alan Thompson with ten minutes to go, but his shot flew high over the bar.

It was the closest Villa could muster and Chelsea's Indian sign of the Midlands side continues.

Chelsea: De Goey, Ferrer, Leboeuf, Desailly, Babayaro, Petrescu (Goldbaek 77), Wise, Morris, Poyet, Sutton (Flo 77), Zola (Ambrosetti 87).
Subs Not Used: Hogh, Cudicini.
Booked: Poyet, Sutton, Leboeuf.
Goals: Ehiogu 52 og.

Aston Villa: James, Ehiogu, Southgate, Calderwood (Stone 77), Delaney, Hendrie, Taylor, Thompson (Merson 71), Wright, Dublin, Joachim, Stone (Draper 89).
Subs Not Used: Oakes, Barry.
Booked: Taylor, Hendrie, Thompson.
Att: 35,071
Ref: N Barry (Scunthorpe).