Joe Cole and Nicolas Anelka struck before half-time this afternoon as Chelsea consolidated their position at the top of the Barclays Premier League and made a mockery of claims that their current injury problems could destabilise the side.

The Blues may have been missing the likes of Deco, Carvalho, Essien and Drogba, but this didn’t disrupt their rhythm and but for some complacent finishing the score line could have been much greater.

Ashley Cole, John Terry and Joe Cole returned to Luiz Felipe Scolari’s team, but Alex missed out, with the Serbian Branislav Ivanovic taking his place and making his first home Premier League appearance.

Chelsea began as they meant to go on, Michael Ballack and Florent Malouda firing in rasping drives that forced Brad Feidel into action.

Nicolas Anelka teed up Frank Lampard moments later, and the midfielder should have done better, but only managed to hit the side netting with his header.

Joe Cole got the ball rolling a couple of minutes later, and Lampard atoned for his miss, playing in his England team mate who easily dispatched the ball past a floundering Friedel.

Leading the line, Anelka had a lot of pressure on his shoulders, pressure he almost alleviated with a stunning 30 yard drive that hit the crossbar with Friedel well beaten.

Anelka then linked up with the energetic Malouda, whose shot was well held by Friedel.

42 minutes were on the clock when Anelka got his goal. The Frenchman was on hand to put the ball in after Friedel had twice parried shots from him and Michael Ballack. The goal meant Chelsea could rest easy going into the break.

Three changes were made at half-time. Martin O’Neill chose to shake things up by bringing on James Milner and Carlos Cuellar for Luke Young and Curtis Davies, while Anelka was forced off with an injury. Franco Di Santo took his place.

Di Santo had his first effort on goal within minutes of the restart, but it was well over.

Stilian Petrov flashed a rare drive wide for Villa - who were finding it hard to gain a foothold in midfield. John Obi Mikel and Lampard were in a class of their own, and Villa were constantly being stretched by the penetrating runs of Ashley Cole and Jose Bosingwa on either flank.

The injury curse claimed another victim in the 56th minute, Joe Cole being forced off. Ivorian Salomon Kalou entered the fray in his place.

A defensive mix-up between John Terry and Petr Cech almost resulted in disaster for Chelsea, but Agbonlahor was unable to force the ball in after Cech had rushed off his line and committed himself.

Michael Ballack aimed to establish a bit more daylight between the two teams, but he shot over when a simple side footed finish would have sufficed.

Friedel punched away a Lampard free-kick before Di Santo tried his luck again after beating his marker. The young Argentine was keen to impress and stake a claim for a more regular role.

Florent Malouda, who had impressed with his energetic running, was replaced by Juliano Belettti as the game moved towards its conclusion, but not before Beletti had tried his luck with a cheeky overhead kick.

Reo-Coker shot wide before the referee blew for full time, but a goal would have flattered Martin O’Neill’s side, who were lucky not to be on the end of a rout.

This was Chelsea's first win over Aston Villa since September 2005. The hoodoo has been banished in a very impressive manner. 

Free Flowing Chelsea Banish Villa Hoodoo