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Chelsea 1-3 Aston Villa: Blues Got What They Deserved Against Villa

Chelsea’s title challenge appeared in tatters on Saturday as they fell to a 3-1 defeat at the hands of a clinical Aston Villa side at Stamford Bridge

Chelsea’s title challenge appeared in tatters on Saturday as they fell to a 3-1 defeat at the hands of a clinical Aston Villa side at Stamford Bridge. Andre Villas-Boas’ side missed the chance to enter 2012 in fourth spot in the Premier League, slumping to fifth level on points with the below placed Liverpool. Chelsea looked to be on their way to another win against Aston Villa in West London when Didier Drogba put the home team ahead from the penalty spot on 23 minutes. However Villa were level five minutes later through Stephen Ireland before two goals in the last 7 minutes from Stilian Petrov and Darren Bent gave the visitors their first win at the Bridge in 10 years.

The result leaves Villas -Boas’ side 11 points adrift of league leaders Manchester City, despite their 1-0 defeat at Sunderland yesterday, whilst also piling even more pressure on the Portuguese manager going into the January transfer window. It might not just  be players on Roman Abramovich’s wishlist this year.

Earlier Saturday afternoon, Manchester United had succumbed to a home defeat by relegation ridden Blackburn Rovers, and buoyed by the Premier League’s first shock result that day Chelsea looked adamant that they would capitalise on their rivals slip up by putting Villa on the back foot. Juan Mata, whose explosive impact on the Premier League now seems a long time ago after a period of poor performances, was demonstrating his qualities with some insightful passing and nearly opened the scoring himself; James Collins blocking an early effort.

The in-form Daniel Sturridge also went close in the games opening exchanges, cutting in from the right before narrowly firing over the bar. Villa also went close as Gabriel Agbonlahor was allowed the space to attack Marc Albrighton’s cross, however he failed to divert the ball towards goal. Villa were set up at the Bridge to contain the hosts, but they were effective in their counter-attacking game plan, using the pace of Agbonlahor as well as his tireless running to occupy David Luiz and John Terry.

It had the effect of hurrying Chelsea in possession, however it did not stop the Blues taking the lead when Richard Dunne fouled Drogba in the area. The Ivorian composed himself and tucked away the spot kick allowing the home support to sit a little more comfortably in their sides pursuit of three points. However the lead did not last long and the manner in which they relinquished the lead will frustrate coach Villas-Boas. Charles N’Zogbia -largely ineffectual in claret and blue up until now- got to the by-line and found Ireland with the pull back. The Irishman’s initial effort was blocked by Terry on the goal line but he had no trouble pouncing on the rebound and drawing Villa level.

Whilst Villas-Boas would be left blatantly furious with his sides defending, a goal-a-piece was a fair reflection on the game; Chelsea starting brightly with Villa beginning to find pockets of space behind the Chelsea defence and it was only right that the teams left the field at half-time level despite Mata having a chance blocked by Stephen Warnock.

Chelsea again followed the referee’s whistle with attacking impetus, Sturridge again going close after being teed-up by the wizardry of Mata. But Villa’s game-plan of contain-and-counter was working perfectly and they should really have taken the lead as a result on 52 minutes. A Chelsea attack was bravely repelled and the Villians- seeing an opportunity- wasted no time in breaking away towards Petr Cech’s goal with a three-against-two. The ball was slipped into Agbonlahor, presenting him with a one-on-one but his effort was well saved by the Blues stopper, and a glorious chance to take the lead went begging.

Frank Lampard and Fernando Torres were introduced within five minutes of one another, replacing Oriol Romeu and Sturridge respectively, and the goal-shy Spaniard nearly vindicated the manager’s wisdom with an effort that struck the bar. The host’s enjoyed plenty of the ball yet were struggling to make their dominance count. Drogba wasted a good opportunity when he dragged a shot wide of the target, and elsewhere they resorted to long-distance shots, like that of Jose Bosingwa’s which failed to trouble Brad Guzan.

As we approached the final 10 minutes their was a growing sense of frustration around the Bridge that they may have to settle for a point, however Alex McLeish’s men had other ideas. Chelsea’s ageing back line had been struggling with the visitors attacking pace all afternoon and Chelsea were soon to be punished for their ineptitude in front of goal. Ciaran Clark was allowed to travel with the ball unattended before spotting the run of Petrov who was in acres of space. The Bulgarian easily found the back of the net without as much as a Blue shirt next to him. It was no more than the host’s deserved and there was more misery for Villas-Boas minutes later as substitute Bent was given the easiest of goals when the influential Ireland intercepted a Lampard pass, before bursting forward and squaring for the England striker to make it three.

Depsite Chelsea’s dominance in possession, the result was no more than both sides deserved: Villa for their defensive astuteness and daring on the break; and Chelsea for another lacklustre performance which has seen their title hopes slide helplessly away before the new year could even begin. This is the first in 10 years that Chelsea have not been in at least fourth place on 31st December. They will be hoping that such performances are left in 2011 as the new year begins.

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