Magnificent 7 proves Chelsea are game for title showdown
By Joe Carroll
Chelsea cruised to a 7-1 victory against Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge with a display that puts them top of the Premier League- if only for a few hours at least.
The Blues saw off a Villa side who despite having had injury concerns over key players prior to the game, still fielded a strong team that included the likes of James Milner, Gabby Agbonlahor and Richard Dunne. Strangely enough for Chelsea, Carlo Ancelotti decided to demote leading goalscorer and in form striker Didier Drogba to the bench- a decision that bemused Chelsea fans before kick-off. But his decision was to be vindicated by the full time whistle as Chelsea demonstrated the same cutting edge and clinical finishing that helped them demolish Portsmouth in mid-week.
However on the basis of the games opening proceedings, 7-1 looked like an unlikely score as Villa began the brighter team, piling on the pressure with a few early corners. It was somewhat against the run of play and with a slice of good fortune that Chelsea took the lead.
The impressive Yuri Zhirkov found himself in time and space on the left hand side and his cross-come-shot found its way though a number of helpless defenders and awaited the sliding arrival of Frank Lampard at the back post to bumble the ball across the line. It was not long however before Villa were level, as Ashley Young cut inside from the left and found striker John Carew at the back post. Zhirkov had his part to play in the game’s first goal and duly had a role in the second, as he let the Norwegian get in behind him for an easy tap in.
Now the game had a bit more of an edge to it, and it was clear that Chelsea were not going to ease to victory in the same manner they did at Fratton Park. However once Chelsea had grabbed their second goal, ease to victory was all they could do.
Again though the lead was rather handed to Chelsea in fortunate circumstances; Zhirkov (central to the games two goals so far) burst into the box after a neat one-two with Florent Malouda, and appeared to be fouled by James Collinson in the area. Referee Peter Walton showed no hesitation in pointing to the spot, although Villa players and fans would be right in feeling aggrieved, as replays show that there was minimal, if any contact.
The decision stood despite Villa’s protests and Lampard emphatically converted the penalty to put the home team 2-1 up at half time.
A rampant second half display from Chelsea did much to show Ancelotti’s side are firmly back on track after their Champions League exit, but it owed just as much to the fact Villa simply failed to turn up in the second half.
An impressive spell in the opening exchanges from the Blues saw them score three goals in ten minutes as Malouda continued his recent scoring exploits with two and the rampaging Lampard clocked up his fourth career hat-trick with another penalty (won by non other than that man Zhirkov).
The maverick midfielder put the minds of those fans worried by Drogba’s exclusion firmly to rest, and showed that even without their leading scorer, there are players who can suitably fill his goalscoring boots.
At 5-1 the remainder of the game was a mere formality for the Blues; being in full control they began to play the game at their own tempo, flying forward with pace and desire whenever they saw fit. Solomon Kalou entered the fray to put his name on the score-sheet and the demolition was complete as Chelsea’s star performer, Lampard pounced on a loose ball on the edge of the area to fire low in to the bottom left hand corner. His fourth goal of the game capped a lustrous performance from the England midfielder, and put much gloss on a solid Chelsea performance.
Whilst Chelsea were good, the game’s choice as first game on Match of the Day owed much to a dispirited and dishevelled display from Villa who looked nothing like the Champions League hopefuls they aspire to be. They lost here for the first time this calendar year, but I would not predict that this defeat will have an ultimate bearing on the outcome of next month’s semi final between the same sides. Whilst Chelsea will be brimming with confidence, Villa will be deeply hurt, and desperate to exact some revenge.
As for Ancelotti’s decision to rest leading scorer Drogba, the call may well have proved to be a stroke of master class management, as he now takes his Chelsea side to Old Trafford next week on the back of two high scoring victories, scoring 12 and conceding just 1 in those two games. Assistant Ray Wilkins believes these goals will have a big say in the title race:
As far as were concerned I think it (the title) is going to go to the wire, so they (goals) are going to be important.
How vital will a fully fit Didier Drogba be next week at Old Trafford? Can Frank Lampard continue his rich scoring form?…please leave your comments below…
Chelsea: Cech 6; Ferreira 6; Terry 8; Alex 6; Zhirkov 7; Malouda 8; Lampard 10; Mikel 7; Deco 6; Cole 6; Anelka 8
Aston Villa: Friedel 4; L Young 5; Dunne 5, Collins 4; Warnock 4; A Young 6; Sidwell 5; Milner 5; Petrov 5; Agbonlahor 4; Carew 6
If you haven’t seen them already, match highlights and goals can be watched by clicking below.
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