In the end the ref was story. The game was decent. It wasn’t dirty. A legendary player broke a club record, but in the end it was about the ref.
Reflecting back, Villa really can have no complaints. For the most part the ref got it right, but why does it feel like he cost them the points? There were a few flashpoints, but if anything those flash points would have made things worse for Villa.
First one came early when Baker tackled Mata and the ref booked him. Replays showed that Baker’s trailing leg scissored in. Ref was justified. He was also correct in flashpoint 2 when Ramirez chopped a Villa player from behind. Not too many years ago that would have been a straight red, but lately common sense has dictated and a yellow was the correct card.
Next was Benteke’s elbow on the Chelsea right back Azpilicueta. Last week I argued the Benteke should have received a straight red at Carrow Rd. This week the replays showed he should have received a straight red again. The ref took his time and finally gave a yellow card, luckily for the forward.
Number four was a handball not given in the area against Chill. Again it would have been very harsh on Chelsea. Moments later though Agbonlahor was penalized for lifting his foot too high, even though Terry was diving low to head the ball away. Bad call.
Sylla ran toward the Chelsea defence, brushed off Ramirez who looked bewildered not to get a free kick and was tripped cynically by John Terry. If Sylla was through on goal it would have been a no brainer straight red. However, Cole was in the vicinity and might have closed the midfielder down. The chances were though that Sylla probably could have squeezed a decent shot off before the right back got back.
Minutes later flashpoint six came when Ramirez twice kicked too high in a 2 seconds span, the second one sent Agbonlahor sprawling to the ground. The ref should have consulted the linesman to see if he saw anything. The call wasn’t really justified as he never really made contact and a warning would have been correct.
Obviously at half-time referee Mason decided that he had made mistakes on the Benteke call and the Ramirez one, so was anxious to even things up, which brings us to flashpoint seven. Villa had actually taken complete control of the game. It looked like young guns vs old pensioners as Chelsea plodded around to cover, but on the hour, Benteke went too high on ball near Terry and the ref pounced and off he went.
Chelsea found a spring in its step and Villa became second best. The final flashpoint was a ball that crossed the goal line. Could not really blame the ref or linesman on this as it took slowing the replays down to see the ball cross the line.
The game itself had been enjoyable but for all the calls. We saw Villa showing off how much growing up has been done since the 8-0 loss and Chelsea showing how much more Villa has to go.
We saw Lampard hit his 161st and 162nd goals to beat Bobby Tamblings record. I swear two thirds of those goals have been against Villa!
Some really good Villa performances out there. Benteke, Weimann, and Agbonlahor proved a handful for the defenders, but were lacking without the Beast.
In midfield Delph, Westwood and Sylla were brilliant at times in midfield. Delph has to add the ingredient of killer balls and goals into his game, but he has the confidence to try now. Sylla showed so much skill on the ball and has great confidence. He came close to scoring, something he never did at Clement Foot. Westwood looked a rock again, but his one bad pass ended up being Lampard’s second goal.
Lichaj did well in Lowtons absence, Bennett improved greatly on his Norwich performance. Baker and Vlaar played pretty well, they failed to close Lampard down on the first goal, though . Guzan made two good saves, but could do nothing about the first goal. He felt he had to come out of his goal on the second, I’m not sure that was the right move.
All in all, Villa's downfall, probably came from Ramirez' sending off and the referee's eagerness to even it up.
Chelsea fans joined in on the 19th minute applause and the Villa fans supported the team to the final minute and most stayed for Petrov’s touching lap of honour with his family.
Villa has to hope Arsenal can at least draw with Wigan to stay up. Meanwhile Chelsea supporters will be debating Rafa’s choice to start so many key players four days before a final. Eden Hazard’s hamstring pull looked bad and the physio was indicating it was a tear.
Talking of Hazard. Villa did a fine job of negating the deadly duo Mata and Hazard for much of the game. Those two link up so well, but although both played well, their magic wasn’t in evidence, except for that second goal. But, that proved to be a killer.