Saturday October 16th 2010
Aston Villa 0 – 0 Chelsea
This match report is a little overdue due to my unavailability this weekend but I did watch the game and it wasn’t exactly an epic. Villa went into the game with high hopes, especially as Chelsea’s injury list made exciting reading. No Lampard, Drogba or Alex to name a few, would have had Houllier looking to take advantage but an ever-growing absentee list of his own was beginning to look worrying. Agbonlahor remains a couple of weeks away from a return after groin surgery and he was joined on the treatment table on the eve of the game. Emile Heskey was forced to withdraw with a back problem and ever-presents, Luke Young and Marc Albrighton could also not be risked. Villa were looking to maintain a fantastic home record, having lost just once to the champions in their last 11 outings at Villa Park. Make that 12 as the two sides played out a forgettable 0-0 draw but the game did have its moments and a point a piece proved a fair outcome.
The home side started the brighter with Carew playing the part of the solitary front man in a 4-4-1-1 system that seems to have caught on this season. Despite stating his delight at playing the supporting free-role in recent weeks, Ashley Young was forced back into a more familiar wide role with Stephen Ireland stepping into his shoes.
It was the summer signing who had the first, and probably Villa’s best chance of the game after just 3 minutes. After a stealthy run into the Chelsea box was tracked by no-one in Blue, Stewart Downing thread a neat pass through to the Irishman who could only pull his shot inches wide.
Minutes later, John Carew found himself unmarked in a similar one-on-one situation with Petr Cech from a slight angle. This time the Chelsea keeper pulled off a decent fingertip save to touch the shot just wide once again. Placement over power was in Carew’s mind and a bit more force behind the effort may have beaten the outstretched Czech.
Here’s where it gets a little less interesting! As Chelsea unsurprisingly started to impose themselves on the game Villa began to sit deeper and deeper. The visitors began to dominate possession whilst succeeding in achieving nothing with it. Villa were resolute but suffered an early blow losing Dunne to injury after 13 minutes. He was replaced by Ciaran Clark who performed admirably for a man of his age, slipping in alongside the impressive James Collins.
The game reached half time with both sides being restricted to somewhat ambitious efforts from outside the box failing to ever really test the opposing number 1s.
Villa started the second half well as they had in the first without creating the sort of chances that went begging in the first 10 minutes. After a better display from John Carew, with his much improved efforts being rewarded with very little, the Norwegian was brought off and replaced by young Nathan Delfouneso.
Now around the 75 minute mark the game started to show signs of life and Ancelotti’s men came close to what would have been a somewhat undeserved lead. Ivanovic thundered a header against the Villa post from a corner which led to a wave of woodwork rescue for both teams.
It was soon Villa’s turn to be thwarted by the post after a teasing free-kick from Young was glanced onto the upright by substitute Clark. Almost a first senior goal for the centre back which would have been to the delight of the home support.
Chelsea then fought back once more and had possibly the best chance of the game. A pattern was occurring as an Ashley Cole cross was met by the head of Nicolas Anelka. The Frenchman really should have scored from just a few yards out but managed to divert his attempt into the ground and agonizingly onto the Villa bar and over.
The home side weren’t done and another solid display from Nigel Reo-Coker should have been capped with a goal in injury time. The tireless midfielder battled Chelsea sub Josh McEachran off the ball leaving him to bare down on the Chelsea goal. The Villa fans may have been hoping the chance had gone to many others with Reo-Coker’s attacking prowess not exactly being his trump card. A heavy touch forced the 26-year-old a little too close to an oncoming Cech meaning that chipping the keeper became the only real option. Re-Coker’s effort dribbled wide of the mark and signified the last action of the game.
A fair result on a day when excellent Villa defending and a sub-par Chelsea performance nearly saw the home side through. 4-2 to Villa in terms of real chances but Chelsea’s dominance of the ball meant that a draw was a decent and correct outcome.
Villa Player Ratings
Brad Friedel – 6 – no real saves to make on a quiet evening
Habib Beye – 6 – decent despite surprise inclusion
James Collins – 8 – imperious, crucial after Dunne departure
Richard Dunne – 6 – injured early after good challenge
Stephen Warnock – 7 – better, but booked again, 4 this season
Stewart Downing – 7 – tracked back very well, better defensively
Nigel Reo-Coker – 7 – strong and decent in possession, should have scored
Stilyan Petrov – 7 – improved, Houllier’s extra fitness work paying off
Ashley Young – 6 – quiet but a few good moments, booked
Stephen Ireland – 6 – settling in, hard to shine, should have scored
John Carew – 7 – much better effort in lonely role
Ciaran Clark – 7 – extremely assured for a youngster, almost scored
Nathan Delfouneso – 6 – offered different out ball but little time
Steve Sidwell – 6 – short cameo
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