An exciting and controversial game went Aston Villa’s way and gave Villa its first back to back home wins since about 2011 and some much needed confidence. It also ended Chelsea’s 14 match unbeaten run and put its championship hopes much in doubt.
Sixty minutes in and there was a feeling that should this game end up 0-0 and the two sides mustered only the 1 shot each on target they had to that point that it would still be an exciting goalless draw.
Villa set up in a Christmas tree formation with 4-3-2-1 forcing Chelsea to have to push their fullbacks forward if they wanted space and relying on counter attacks as if away from home.
Chelsea had a shoot on sight approach with Torres used more as a decoy to allow Hazard, Oscar and Willian to form triangles. Villa worked hard as Chelsea dominated possession.
Five minutes in to the game referee Foy made a decision that will probably come back to bite him as a professional referee. Nathan Baker went into a challenge on Torres that was ill advised and the ref decided against warning and reached right in for his book. So, twentyl minutes later when Willian jumped in in a similar manner, on El Ahmadi, the Villa players all but forced Foy into reaching for his book.
Chelsea had the ball in the net just before half-time when Chelsea’s best player Matic seemed to have squeezed the ball past Guzan from a corner. The ref spotted a hand ball and conferred with his assistants and overturned his own decision.
In the final minute of the half another controversial moment when Ramirez appeared to be one on one with Bennett who brought him down, but the ref deemed that Vlaar was coming across and/or Ramirez was going away from goal so the youngster just received a yellow.
Chelsea had thwarted Benteke by putting Matic on him for Guzan’s clearances so that Cahill and Terry could deal with any flick-ons to Weimann or Agbonlahor.
It was close to an hour before Chelsea got its only shot on target. Oscars low shot smothered by Guzan, when Ivanovich waited on the far post for a pass.
Villa just really hadn’t been in the game in the second half with very little possession, but had just begun to emerge a little more patient in the previous minutes to the sending off. Villa had had a great move finished with a shot from Benteke that swerved just away from the post.
Soon the atmosphere, already simmering raised a notch when Foy was undone by his earlier decisions. Willian grabbed Delph who was running away from him and pulled him down. It was barely bookable, but still bookable. Manager Mourinho was too busy being angry on the touchline to notice the irony that two minutes earlier his staff had substituted the left winger only for the Special one to over-ride their decision.
Just like last season when Benteke was given a second yellow the team with ten men immediately tried to play like ten men wouldn’t affect them. But, Villa gradually got a foot into midfield and for the next 10 minutes it was an open stretched game. Villa swapped Albrighton for Agbonlahor, who received a deserved ovation, Albrighton changed Villa’s look and Chelsea struggled to cope.
Another flashpoint occurred when Vlaar had his leg too high and caught Schurrle in the sternum. Chelsea wanted a red, but it was nowhere near the Tettey challenge on Baker two weeks ago that resulted in a yellow or even the milder challenge by Stoke’s Watters on Tettey that was called a red.
Villa should have had a penalty on 80 minutes when Vlaar was clearly pulled back by his shirt from a corner that sailed narrowly over from his head, but we forgot all about that 30 seconds later after the clearance. Ba’s intended pass was cut out by Delph in midfield, he raced forward tricking Matic beautifully and gliding by him. The he sent the ball wide to his left to Albrighton, unmarked again and in plenty of space. Albrighton cut a low cross back across goal, it was behind DELPH, who somehow flicked the ball from behind him and it went in off the post and the ground erupted.
It was the kind of goal pundits fawn over when Hazard or Oscar, Mata or Nani, Ozil or Walcott put in, but Delph doesn’t get that kind of credit.
Villa defended magnificently, Guzan was barely troubled. Lambert and Mourinho had their usual heated exchange on the touchline. Meanwhile Villa had a couple more chances with Weimann just failing to connect on a left wing cross after more great work by Delph. Benteke shooting straight at Cech and Delph’s shot just saved by the Czech Republic keeper when he looked odds on to wrap up the game.
Ramires got booked just before the 90 for a high kick in middle on El Ahmedi, just before Benteke and Delph’s late chances. Two minutes later, Ramires got a red card for stamping on El Ahmadi after the Villa man won the ball fairly. Mourinho followed his player to the dressing room for coming on the field and dissenting the ref.
One more clearance by Vlaar and Villa snatched 3 vital points.
El Ahmadi: Brilliant.
Delph: Extra brilliant
Subs: Albrighton & Baker: Brilliant.