As Chelsea FC traveled to Villa Park on Saturday, they had two things to take care of. The first being securing three points to keep their impressive lead over fellow title challengers, particularly Manchester City. The Blues would also be looking to build momentum heading into the UEFA Champions League second leg match against Galatasaray next Tuesday.
During early proceedings, the game was very open. Both Aston Villa and Chelsea were passing the ball around nicely, and finding players in attacking positions. Even so, neither team was able to pick out a real chance.
Chelsea were the first to get a good opportunity, and they almost crept ahead. In the 12th minute Willian came from the left flank, cut inside to his right foot, and sent a screaming low shot at goalkeeper Brad Guzan. The keeper made an acrobatic dive, but the ball eventually pulled wide of the net.
The biggest talking point of the first half would come in the 40th minute. After Eden Hazard had earned a corner after a nice bit of skill, it had seemed as if Nemanja Matic had made it 1-0 for Chelsea after forcing the ball into the back of the net from close range. But the officials called the goal off due to a handball offense.
As the teams headed for the locker rooms, it was very much up in the air as to who had the upper hand. Villa would certainly be inspired by their home fans, but Chelsea’s talent and effectiveness in the counter attack is nothing to take lightly.
As the second half began, it seemed as if the Blues would be the ones to break the deadlock. Decent spells of possession, plus chances from Fernando Torres and Oscar contributed to an opening that was spent largely in Villa’s end. As good as their fortunes had seemed, Chelsea’s chances of winning were dashed on 66 minutes after Willian was handed a second yellow card following his collision with Fabian Delph.
Following the send off, Villa looked more comfortable on the ball, and used their man advantage to the fullest extent. That advantage was made even bigger when Ramires was shown a straight red card following his challenge on Karim El Ahmadi. In another show of frustration, manager Jose Mourinho was also sent from the touchline before the game ended.
For all that had happened to that point, the game remained scoreless. Just as it looked Chelsea might have been able to escape with a point to claim, Fabian Delph put Villa ahead in the 81st minute, giving his team all three points.
What started out as a tricky road match, that was hopefully a draw at worst, turned out to be an enormous disaster for the Blues. Two players sent off, as well as the manager, and a disappointing loss to go with it. There will be no time to think about the loss, as Chelsea go into a tough UEFA Champions League match on Tuesday against Galatasaray, then will face London rivals Arsenal next week.
Follow us on Twitter at @PrideOLondon
Like us on Facebook at The Pride of London