FULL TIME: Aston Villa 1-0 Chelsea
And that’s that! Villa have fought their way to an ultimately much-deserved victory over the league leaders! Chelsea were the better side - just - until Willian stupidly got himself sent off. Then Delph, Westwood and Albrighton took control, the three of them earning Villa three much-needed points! Mourinho didn’t do a great deal, from what could be ascertained from TV pictures, though you can’t be wandering onto the pitch to take issue with red cards - and Ramires certainly deserved his straight dismissal. Villa Park erupted in the last 15 minutes there - and the title race is blown wide open on a great day for Manchester City. Another strange humdinger? Yep, we’ve just had one.
90 min +4: Now Mourinho’s been ordered to the stand! He’s suffering from heat of the forehead, having walked onto the pitch to discuss matters with the referee.
90 min +3: RAMIRES IS SHOWN A STRAIGHT RED! He stamps on El Ahmadi as the Villa man slides in. That was a terrible challenge.
90 min +2: Delph breaks into the Chelsea area, just to the left of the D, set clear by Westwood. His low shot spoons off Cech, and hits the crossbar on the right side. The resulting corner comes to naught.
90 min +1: There will be four added minutes, and there goes one, quick as you like.
90 min: Ramires is booked for a late slide on Unidentified Villa Player as the home side look to break upfield.
89 min: Benteke warms Cech’s hands with a riser aimed towards the top right. Weimann tries to ram home the parry with a follow-up header, but Cech is behind it all the way.
88 min: Delph and Albrighton are breaking upfield with purpose again and again. The pair are very impressive. Another 60 seconds bite the dust as they eat up the turf. Chelsea can’t get the ball at the moment, which is some change from earlier. Willian has a couple of questions to answer.
87 min: A palpable mix of excitement and tension at Villa Park. This is exactly how football should be. Cech hoicks a drop kick right down the middle of the park and into the hands of a grateful Guzan. Villa, with one eye on the clock and a few minutes from a valuable win, couldn’t be happier with such a tactic.
86 min: Delph romps into an awful lot of space down the Chelsea left. He lays off for Albrighton, who curls one to the far post. Weimann isn’t that far away from connecting with a slide. Terry was a bit scatty there.
84 min: Chelsea are not having this, and push Villa back yet again. Villa are struggling to clear their lines, but Vlaar, Clark and Baker all hack away and eventually one of the upfield hoofs flies far enough away from the danger zone for the home side to regroup.
GOAL!!! Aston Villa 1-0 Chelsea (Delph 82)
No matter! In the very next attack, Delph slips Albrighton away down the left. Albrighton makes it into the area, then cuts the ball across. The ball’s going behind Delph, level with the left-hand post, but the midfielder dangles his leg backwards and deflects a brilliant effort into the bottom right! What an outstanding piece of improvisation!
81 min: ... Cahill heads over with Benteke lurking. Then, from the resulting corner on the left, Vlaar attempts to glance a header into the top right from ten yards. He’s an inch or so from scoring. So unfortunate!
80 min: Matic flips Weimann into the air like a fried egg. That’ll be a free kick just to the right of the Chelsea area. Westwood takes, and ...
79 min: Eventually some more football. Hazard takes the free kick, just to the right of the D. It’s a daisycutter towards the bottom left. Or rather, wide of the left-hand post, and the stretching Ba can’t toe-poke it in.
78 min: A lot of fannying around before the free kick is taken. Not least because Clark replaces Bennett.
77 min: Vlaar is booked for sticking his leg across Schurrle’s chest as the Chelsea man looked to break into the Villa area down the inside right. That’ll be a free kick in a very dangerous position.
76 min: Westwood has time in the middle of the Chelsea half. He slides a ball forward to Delph who, thanks to Cahill’s sloth, has time to turn and guide a shot wide right of goal. He should have done better.
74 min: Albrighton comes on for Agbonlahor, who has been very poor. “I suppose Willian needed to get changed in time for The Voice on BBC 1 at 7.15pm?” quips Simon McMahon, because I suppose somebody had to.
72 min: It’s been all Chelsea since the sending off, they’ve got their temper-settings up to RIGHTEOUS. But despite Hazard, Schurrle, Ba and Ramires putting themselves about in the grand style, nothing’s quite sticking for them at the moment.
69 min: WILLIAN IS SENT OFF!!! Willian goes chasing after Delph, who is making his way through the centre circle. Delph looks over his shoulder to see what’s behind him, then waits to buy a cheap free kick. Willian foolishly clatters into the Villa player, despite having plenty of notice to cool his boots. And that’s his second yellow. It’s a soft booking, but not really that harsh, because it was oh-so-avoidable. What crass stupidity from a very, very talented player.
68 min: Benteke is booked for a late clip on Ramires. He can have no complaints.
67 min: A double change by Jose Mourinho: Oscar and Torres off, Schurrle and Ba on.
66 min: Villa finally put a move together. After a few passes upfield, Benteke strokes a pass down the inside right to release Weimann into the area. Weimann reaches the byline and cuts back for his partner Benteke, who fizzes a low shot inches wide of the left-hand post. Cech had that covered, probably, but it wasn’t 100% clear.
64 min: Torres knocks down a left-to-right Willian diagonal, but there’s nobody in the box to take advantage. Villa break upfield through Agbonlahor down the left, and there’s options in the middle, but he hesitates and the chance to send a team-mate skittering with purpose towards the Chelsea area is gone.
61 min: Chelsea pin Villa back, about a yard from goal, for the best part of a minute. After a corner on the left, Oscar is afforded space in the left-hand portion of the box. He tries an over-elaborate sidefoot towards the bottom right, when a common-or-garden skelp would have done. Guzan smothers, and the danger is over. For now. Chelsea are beginning to fashion chances and half-chances now. Villa don’t look best equipped to survive this for another half-hour.
59 min: Bacuna makes off into space down the right wing, and for a second it looks as though he’ll fashion enough space to send a troublesome cross into the Chelsea box. But Azpilicueta is a superlative defender, and sticks to his man like Moe Tucker. Bacuna’s not getting past.
57 min: SUPER-INTERESTING BREAKING RAW DATA. Chelsea have enjoyed 70% possession since the restart. That’s not actually very interesting, is it? Sorry. Am trying to fit in with these modern journalistic trends, and failing miserably.
56 min: Hazard is causing all sorts of playmaker-related bother down the inside-right channel. Here he sliderules Willian into acres, but again the offside flag goes up. A lot of Hazard’s good work is going to waste, thanks to some hair-trigger running from his team-mates.
54 min: A fine cross whipped into the Chelsea box from the right by Bacuna is killed with one stunning Benteke touch. The striker has his back to goal, ten yards out, and looks to turn, but he’s been over-physical with his whole approach, and the referee blows his whistle accordingly.
53 min: A clever reverse pass down the right channel by Hazard releases Willian, who in turn shuttles the ball down the wing for Ramires. Chelsea have loaded the box, and a dangerous cross is surely coming, but Ramires has stupidly run offside, and Villa are offered some relief.
51 min: Ivanovic, from the right wing, crosses deep towards Hazard. Guzan comes to claim but flaps. Hazard twists and turns by the byline, but can’t quite get a shot away from a tight angle. Vlaar slides back in and nearly turns the ball into his own net, but Guzan gets a palm before it creeps into the top left. Chelsea have turned up the pressure since the restart. Villa look very unsure of themselves, and are defending too deep.
49 min: Bennett hoicks a long free kick into the Chelsea area. Baker knocks it down for Agbonlahor on the penalty spot, but Cahill is wise to the grift and nips in ahead of the Villa forward to clear.
47 min: Chelsea stroke it around in a languid way. Eventually Ramires ups the pace and wins a corner down the right. Villa manage to clear after a couple of phases of Chelsea pressure. I wonder if Chelsea have been given a bit of Fergusonian half-time treatment by Mourinho, who didn’t look best pleased as he stomped out of the dressing rooms for the second period.
There’s a gorgeous blood-red sunset sky over Villa Park. An equally spectacular second half, please! Chelsea get the ball rolling. No changes.
HALF TIME: Aston Villa 0-0 Chelsea
There’s enough time for a cross from the right to hit a clueless Benteke smack in the coupon, and nearly find the top left of the Chelsea goal. And that’s that for the half. Not great, but it was beginning to heat up towards the end of the period, so here’s hoping for a second 45 like that. “Sir Chris Hoy might want to turn off his twitter account for a while after that disallowed goal,” suggests JR in Illinois.
45 min: Ramires chases after a long ball down the middle. He’s going to get there in front of Vlaar and Bennett, and break clear into the area, but Bennett bundles him over for the free kick. That could easily be a red card, because though Vlaar was close by, Ramires was about to zip into the area for a one-on-one with Guzan. But the referee only shows yellow. Hmm. On the touchline, Mourinho does the air-booking thing, demanding a sending off. We’re supposed to say nobody likes to see that sort of thing, but everyone does when it’s their team who have been on the sore end of a decision, let’s be honest.
44 min: Matic robs a kipping Agbonlahor in the middle of the park, and slides Torres free down the left-hand channel. Torres cuts inside with a view to 2008ing a curler into the top right, but no dice, it’s blocked the minute it leaves his foot.
41 min: CHELSEA HAVE A GOAL CHALKED OFF! And this is equally stunning by Hazard, who diddles his way round Bacuna by the left-hand corner flag, then wins a corner. The ball’s floated into the middle, where Terry flicks on to the far post. Matic, two yards out, bundles home in strange slow motion. Chelsea wheel off to celebrate, but the goal’s ruled out, Matic having brought Terry’s flick down with the top of his arm. Chelsea complain, but not with much feeling.
39 min: Wow, this is better from Villa! Agbonlahor forces the ball out wide to Benteke who, on the left-hand corner of the Chelsae area, attempts to scissor a first-time shot into the bottom-right corner. It’s ambitious, and not far away either, passing the right-hand post by a couple of inches. And I’m really not sure that Cech was getting any fingertips to that if it was on target. A stunning effort.
37 min: Agbonlahor goes on a high-speed slalom down the middle of the park. He’s got Benteke in space down the left, waiting to be sprung clear, but the Villa winger decides he’s the Diego Maradona de nos jours, and continues with a view to scoring an 80-yard solo goal. Neither Terry nor Cahill are of a mind to put up with that, and tackle accordingly.
35 min: Chelsea are beginning to wreak all manner of havoc down this right-hand channel. Hazard slips a ball forward for Torres, who to be fair tries to lash home in the spectacular 2008 style. He suffers a rush of blood, though, and blooters his effort miles over the bar. It might not be long before Chelsea open the scoring, if they keep this up.
34 min: Ramires dinks a pretty little pass down the inside-right channel with a view to releasing Torres. The striker would be one-on-one with Guzan, six yards out, had Baker not eyebrowed the pass out of play at the very last second. Fine defending, and Villa deal with the resulting corner easily enough.
33 min: Hazard is released into the Villa box, down the inside right, by a clever reverse Oscar pass. He’s half a leg offside, though. Chelsea really should have bothered Guzan once or twice, but the keeper hasn’t been forced to work yet. I doubt Mourinho is worried too much.
30 min: Torres is sent clear down the inside-left channel and into the area. The striker faffs around, and his low cross into the box is easily cleared. Why didn’t he shoot? The Fernando Torres of 2008 would have battered that home, or curled it at pace into the top-right corner. He’s won all sorts since moving to Stamford Bridge, and yet it’s just not happened for him at Chelsea, a very strange contradiction.
27 min: Agbonlahor drops a shoulder with a view to making it into the Chelsea area down the right. The ever-excellent Azpilicueta sticks tight on the winger, and Villa have to settle for a corner. Agbonlahor takes, and Benteke is penalised for riding Cahill like a horse. For a second I thought the striker was going to wave his arm in a whipping action, all the other constituent parts of the mime were there.
24 min: Willian is booked for a late slide on El Ahmadi. A tackle executed on the halfway line with the Villa midfielder going nowhere, that was as needless as yellow cards come. He can have no complaints, having wheeched straight through his man.
22 min: The crowd are vigorously cheering throw-in awards at the moment. It’s fair to say that, while this hasn’t been a terrible match by any means, it could do with picking up a wee bit, too.
21 min: Villa are at least trading blows with Chelsea now. Agbonlahor makes away down the right into a little space, and has time to deliver a cross into the area, but he overcooks the effort and the ball sails serenely out of play, miles to the left of goal. Villa can’t afford to fritter away good field position like that.
18 min: Vlaar bangs a long ball forward with a view to releasing Benteke in the Chelsea area. Cahill should probably let the ball fly through to Cech, but heads it out to the Villa right wing instead, allowing Benteke to pick up the loose ball, turn, and cause... well, he causes no trouble. But he could have. That was uncharacteristically slack by Chelsea at the back. There are no pictures of Mourinho, but rest assured he’ll have responded to that with a facial expression or two.
16 min: Oscar, on the left-hand corner of the Villa box, slides the ball inside to Willian, then receives a wall pass and curls a first-time shot towards the bottom right. Guzan was beaten, but the shot doesn’t bend back in enough, and flies right of the target. This is a pretty open game, a state of affairs which looks like favouring Chelsea.
14 min: From a tight position on the left wing, deep in his own half, Azpilicueta curls a gorgeous inswinging 40-yard pass forward to release Torres clear on goal. The flag goes up for offside, which is a preposterous nonsense. Torres should have been permitted to bear down on the Villa goal there. Wonderful pass, too.
13 min: El Ahmadi picks up the ball in front of the centre circle, takes one touch, a couple of strides forward, and hoicks an awful shot miles over the bar for three points under the rugby union rules system.
11 min: Willian looks a proper player. He’s involved all across the Chelsea front line. He holds the ball up and slips it wide right to Hazard, whose whipped cross is only just missed by Torres, hoping to meet it on the edge of the six-yard box. Less than 60 seconds later, Willian is nipping in from the left wing again, looking to thread powerfully into the bottom-left corner from 25 yards. That’s not far away at all, flying just wide of the post and bothering the side netting. Guzan probably had that covered, but still. Not far away. Willian looks in the mood.
10 min: Willian cuts in from the left and sends a looping, deflected shot into the Villa box in the rough direction of the top-right corner. Guzan gathers. Villa go down the other end, Agbonlahor zipping down the left wing and crossing deep for Benteke, who under pressure from Azpilicueta, balloons a header high and wide right. That’s the first half-chance for the home side, who started in a very uncertain fashion, albeit without suffering any scares.
9 min: A bit better from Villa, a little possession which ends when Bacuna romps into a little space down the right and sends a fairly aimless ball downfield. Cech deals with it in the no-fuss fashion. It wasn’t much, but for the home team it represents a start.
7 min: Torres makes off into space down the left. His low cross is abysmal, and easily gathered by Guzan. Villa, meanwhile, haven’t been able to string two passes together yet.
6 min: Baker is putting himself about early doors. He slides through the back of Torres. This one’s a bit more malicious, and he’s rightly booked. A quick tap for the free kick, out on the right, and Willian sends the ball into the Villa area. Guzan claims under no pressure.
4 min: The match starts.
3 min: Willian has only just got up, holding both his jaw and his leg. He gingerly shuffles to the sidelines. He’ll be OK, writes Dr Murray, a quack who has no idea, other than Willian is now standing on the touchline waiting to be called back onto the field.
And we’re off! Villa get the ball rolling. Chelsea will be kicking towards the Holte End in the first half. After 30 seconds, Willian takes a clatter from Baker as the pair challenge for a 50-50 ball in the middle of the park. No blame attached to either player, but the Chelsea man takes a minute or so to get his act together. And no wonder, that was a fair old coming together.
The teams are out! Aston Villa are sporting their famous old claret and blue shirts, while Chelsea are in their renowned first-choice royal blue. A nice classic look to this match. The league leaders, standing six points clear of second-placed Manchester City having played two games more, look very relaxed. BUT COULD THEY REALLY BE THAT RELAXED? “The picture of Brad Guzan at the top of this MBM makes him look like that, um, thing from the Aphex Twin’s Come to Daddy video,” suggests John Galt, who isn’t too far wide of the mark. “Chelsea will be terrified into defeat.”
This is, it’s easy to forget, seeing Aston Villa haven’t troubled their honours board since 1996, a clash between two erstwhile European champions. Back in 1982, Villa did this ...
... while two years ago Chelsea won the European Cup as well. But we all remember that, so here’s a photo of assorted Chelsea types on the top of a bus in the wake of landing a different continental bauble back in 1971.
Cast and crew
Aston Villa: Guzan, Bacuna, Vlaar, Baker, Bennett, El Ahmadi, Westwood, Delph, Weimann, Benteke, Agbonlahor. Subs: Clark, Albrighton, Steer, Sylla, Holt, Lowton, Robinson.
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Ramires, Matic, Willian, Oscar, Hazard, Torres. Subs: Lampard, Mikel, Schurrle, Salah, Ba, Schwarzer, Kalas.
Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside)
Aston Villa and Chelsea have served up some strange humdingers in recent seasons. Strange, strange, strange. Let’s take the game on Boxing Day 2007 as the starting point of the descent into out-and-out weirdness. That match, at Stamford Bridge, ended 4-4 after the home side had two men sent off in the last ten minutes, scoring what looked like a winner on 88, then letting it slip at the death. Chelsea have since beaten Villa 7-1 and 8-0 at home, though there’s a 3-3 draw on the Fulham Broadway sandwiched between those games (three goals in the last six minutes in that one).
This actual fixture, the one at Villa Park, has been relatively calmer, though only just.Here’s what happened in the last two: a 4-2 win for Chelsea in 2012, Villa scoring twice in three minutes to come from 2-0 down before letting it slip in the last seven minutes, and a win for the visitors last year too, Chelsea pensioner Frank Lampard hitting a late winner.
This promises goals, then. Not least because Villa have been little short of appalling recently - they’ve lost nine of their last 15 games - while Chelsea are managed by Jose Mourinho and look what they’ve been up to recently. Villa boss Paul Lambert is unlikely to suffer a thundering mental meltdown like Tottenham’s Tim Sherwood did last week, but he might not be looking forward to meeting a suddenly free-scoring Chelsea side nonetheless. His only hope is that his stuttering team have gained succour from their 4-1 belting of Norwich City last weekend. It’s not much, but it’s something. And between these two clubs, you just never know.
Kick off: 5.30pm, after which anything could happen. We’re guessing either 5-5 or 1-0 to Chelsea.