Aston Villa team: Guzan, Bacuna, Bennett, Westwood, Vlaar, Baker, El Ahmadi, Delph, Benteke, Weimann, Ablonlahor (Subs: Clark, Albrigton, Steer, Sylla, Holt, Lowton, Robinson).
Chelsea team: Cech, Ivanovic, Azpilicueta, Matic, Cahill, Terry, Willian, Ramires, Torres, Oscar, Hazard (Subs: Lampard, Mikel, Schurrle, Salah, Ba, Schwarzer, Kalas).
Chelsea’s title challenge took a huge blow as their 9 men were defeated by a single goal against Aston Villa at Villa park. Fabian Delph scored with a delightful flick, midway through the second half, as Chelsea had their manage Jose Mourinho sent to the stands.
Chelsea came into this game the form team, 15 games unbeaten. Aston Villa had also won their previous game, a 4-1 win against Norwich. Willian, Torres and Oscar replaced Lampard, Eto’o and Schurrle in the starting line from the team who had also scored four goals in the previous game, a win against Tottenham. Aston Villa were forced into a change as Ryan Bertrand was not eligible against his parent club, Bennett deputised.
Aston Villa, who had defeated Chelsea only once in the previous 8 games started steadily and attempted to get in Chelsea’s faces resulting in an early injury to midfielder Willian. Willian and his team mates eventually got hold of the ball and looked comfortable, stringing together neat passes without creating any clear cut opportunities.
If recent history is anything to go by the odds were against the Villains winning this game and not only because of their poor record against Chelsea. The Midlands team have not won two consecutive games since 2011, in addition to the fact that they have recorded more points away from home, than at Villa Park. Though, their visit to Chelsea early this season was not fruitful, having lost 2-1, they can take heart from Frank Lampard being left on the bench- he has scored the most goals against Villa than any other team.
Fernando Torres, coming in for the inform Eto’o, looked lively getting into good positions but often was indecisive or delivered poorly. Christian Benteke has found his old form again, notching up five goals in his last eight games had a header go wide. Torres was wasteful again, his pass not finding the intended recepient and El Ahmadi was equally as wasteful after being found by a beautifully weighted pass by Benteke blazed over, when there was a better ball available on his right to Bacuna.
More chances came for both Benteke and Torres, the formers well timed volley whistled the post and the latters two shots went wide and another blocked. Chelsea have reason to feel hard done by ref Chris Foy. Firstly, Matic scored from a half way volley at the back post from a corner, which seemed like a legitimate goal. After initially awarding the goal, Chris Foy disallowed on the linesmans instuctions that Matic commited a handball. In another instance Ramires burst deep into the Aston Villa half to be brought down by Joel Bennett, he was given a yellow card but perhaps could have had a red as Ramires looked seemingly through on goal. The resulting Oscar free kick was easily saved whilst Benteke had another header saved at the other end.
Jose Mourinho seemed to have got his message across at half time as Chelsea started the second half very brightly. Hazard’s clever turn allowed him to shoot, the ball deflected off El Ahmadi and Guzan cleared the danger. Oscar’s shot was saved by Guzan, also. Aston Villa, known for their counter attacking abilities, made use of that as Benteke burst forward and found team mate Weimann on the wing, the Villa hit man held his run and received a disguised cut back from Weimann, shooting narrowly wide.
Chelsea made some changes Ba and Schurrle for Torres and Oscar, but their plans to pile on further pressure on the Aston Villa backline took a hit as Willian saw red after a clumsy push on Delph. Despite that, the flow of the game did not change, Chelsea kept the pressure and Aston Villa broke when they could. Fabian Delph, who had an earlier shot go wide, started and finished a brilliant Villa move. The midfielder intercepted and skipped round Matic too easily and released Albrighton on his left. Delph continued his run and skilfully backheeled Albrighton’s cross into the back of Chelsea’s net.
Though Chelsea threatened an equaliser, they lost their head in stoppage time. Ramires’ dangerous stamp on El Ahmadi saw him get a red and Mourinho sent to the stands for protesting.
The final whistle blew and you’d think Villa had just won the league, taking nothing away from them, they defended well and reduced Chelsea to only a few good opportunities and put all pre-match stats to shame. Chelsea will have to dust themselves down and focus on getting into quarter finals of the Champions League where old boy Didier Drogba will be looking to pile on more misery on his ex team. Things do not get any easier as they entertain Arsenal next Saturday and they’ll have to overcome the Gunners without Willian and Ramires.
Title race blow wide open.