Lampard 23 (pen), Drogba 84, Terry 90
ASTON VILLA 3
Young 41 (pen), Heskey 47, Clark 90+2
Villa seemed to be in freefall coming into this fixture, bottom of the form table with five defeats in their last six, and residing only a point above the relegation zone. However the Villain’s dogged display against Chelsea earned them a valuable point, and this performance will hopefully set a president for Gerrad Houiller’s struggling team as begin 2011.
Houllier selected a much more experienced side than in recent games. Richard Dunne returned to the back four, and Nigel Reo-Coker and Styilan Petrov anchored Villa’s midfield. Stuart Downing started on the right and was tasked with occupying Ashley Cole, while Gabriel Agbonlahor was favoured on the left. Ashley Young continued playing behind a lone front man, in this case Emile Heskey, as a ‘central winger’ drifting in space in the channels when the opportunity presented itself, and created neat triangles with the traditional wingers and Heskey.
Aston Villa were able to frustrate Chelsea for much of the first half; they attacked regularly down the left, targeting the Blues right-back Paulo Ferreira with Agbonlahor’s pace. Ciaran Clark at left-back was able to push forward and Young moved out to left flank to take advantage of the space.
Young was a constant thorn in Chelsea’s side, taking advantage of Michael Essien’s limitations as a holding player; the Ghanaian is more comfortable stepping into midfield to win the ball rather than screening his back four.
The first half was a relatively scrappy affair; both sides won penalties James Collins and Florent Malouda clashed clumsily, and the Villa defender was aggrieved to adjudged to have been the guilty party. Later Essien carelessly tripped Reo-Coker and Villa were able to level from the spot.
Early in the second half Villa took the lead. Downing beat Cole down the right, and stood up a cross for Heskey who towered over Chelsea’s 19-year-old defender Jeffrey Bruma to score. From here Villa sat back and looked to hold onto their deserved lead. They were comfortable for most of the second half as Chelsea failed to find any rhythm in attack, but as the game wore on Villa began to tire, it was after all their third game in a week.
The last ten minutes was a ragged, exciting affair as Chelsea awoke form there m