Villa, Chelsea play to stalemate

In a game of few gilt edge chances, Villa will be ruing the fact that the last chance of the game fell to one of the least prolific goal scorers on the field. Nigel Reo Coker who runs with the ball as though he’s stumbling,  pushed the ball too far in front of himself and hit his right footed chip agonizingly wide of the post, with Petr Cech beaten.

Villa also started the game off with a superb chance when Stephen  Ireland, back in the team with Habib Beye, was pushed through from Downing, but his fizzing shot, which could almost have been passed into the net, curved away at the last moment.

Ireland was involved again when his lay off to Petrov was struck by the Bulgarian, but deflected to safety.

Before that Carew seemed to have found his scoring touch, but Cech managed to get a palm on the ball.

Chelsea were being held to hopeful shots from the edge of the area and seemed easily contained by Villa in the first half, despite losing Richard Dunne to injury, Ciaran Clarke was a surprise, but more than adequate replacement.

The second half was a different story, Malouda moved inside as a forward midfielder and had 2 chances in the first three minutes as Chelsea were buzzing. Villa couldn’t keep possession in the final third as Ireland and Carew kept failing to connect.

Ivanovich had a flick on header hit the outside of the post, but replays showed that Downing was well positioned to clear anyway.

As often happens in football, when one side hits a post, the other team goes down the field and does the same. Minutes later this indeed happened. Clarke got a nudge on to a free kick and watched in agony as it crashed the post and rolled out to safety.

The game got a little testy as tackles flew in from both sides. Villa seemed to get the worst of the treatment from the ref as Ivanovich got away with two serious tackles and screaming at the ref for awarding a corner, while Young was cautioned for one innocuous tackle and swearing at an official for getting it so wrong from four yards away.

Chelsea sub McCreatchen escaped a booking for a professional foul on Ireland, but went straight into the refs notebook after trying to pull out of a challenge 4 minutes later.

Houllier decided, wisely,  that enough was enough and he was going to protect his finesse player, Ireland and bring on an enforcer, Sidwell, to let Chelsea players know that if they wanted to try the physical game, Villa were more than willing to match it.

Back in the game, Anelka should have scored when his header into the ground from 4 yards bounced on top of the bar and out.

Once Sidwell settled into the game, Villa began to dominate midfield and caught Chelsea in possession several times, but the lack of a strike force is glaring this season and time ran out with Villa happy with a point, but thinking it could have been so much more.