Lampard 23 pen, Drogba 84, Terry 89
ASTON VILLA 3
Young 41, Heskey 47, Clarke 91
Chelsea’s latest failure to secure three points against opposition beneath them in the Premier League table has effectively killed of any lingering title aspirations for this campaign as the club desperately looks to consolidate and guarantee Champions League football next term. Premier League titles are not won over the festive period, but they can most certainly be lost.
In a way, defeat to Aston Villa on Sunday would probably have been less damaging then the manner in which the game played out. Chelsea threw everything they had at their guests in a pulsating clash, and the ecstasy was obvious when John Terry swept home what looked to be a monumental three points. Having gone beyond showing their resolve and character to turn the game around with just six minutes of normal time remaining, you can only imagine how livid and deflated the players would have been in the dressing room.
Unlike recent performances, this Chelsea display had substance and heart. Previous poor results can be put attributed to injuries and a lack of work ethic and communication, but this showing had little for Carlo Ancelotti to bemoan, and that is why this defeat will have done more damage than any other to the Stamford Bridge outfit.
In possession, and when trailing, Chelsea were a much improved unit. All of sudden, Frank Lampard’s influence was apparent as Ancelotti’s star-studded midfield pressed forward with a belief so clearly lacking in recent weeks. Out of possession, however, the Blues were lethargic and their lacklustre defending at the death allowed Ciaran Clark to ghost in and irreversibly rupture Chelsea’s title challenge. Petr Cech continued his rich vein of form but must have been furious to see his backline show Villa sight of goal time and time again. It is truly remarkable how one individual can play so well, yet reap no reward for some of the best form since horrific injury in 2006.
It has been plain to see this term that Chelsea are painfully stretched outside their starting XI and much sympathy must be had for Jeffrey Bruma – making his first ever Premier League start – who found Emile Heskey at his unplayable best. The young Dutch centre-back was given a torrid time by the former England international and Branislav Ivanovic will surely be rueing his unnecessary booking against Arsenal which suspended him from this encounter.
Chelsea’s return to goal scoring form coincides with Lampard’s much-awaited return to first team action as the Blues scored more than one goal in a game for the first time since late November. This goal drought corresponds with the club’s slide down the table and Roman Abramovich may have to reassess whether or not the January transfer window could bring some stability to the club. Ancelotti has admitted that fresh faces are required to pull his side out of this terrible slump, but with the New Year window having such a massive impact on player value, the Italian may have to make do with the confidence-drained squad he already has.
19 Ferreira – 43 Bruma – 26 Terry – 3 Cole
5 Essien – 8 Lampard – 7 Ramires
39 Anelka – 11 Drogba – 15 Malouda
57 – 17 Bosingwa on for 19 Ferreira
72 – 21 Kalou on for 7 Ramires
78 – 23 Sturridge on for 39 Anelka