Blog by: TRP
Aston Villa were hard done by the decisions of Kevin Friend and Co., on a night Mourinho’s Blue army found it difficult to breakdown a resolute and organized Paul Lambert’s side. The onus was on Chelsea to live up to the expectations from all corners to go 3 points clear of Man Utd before meeting them on Monday at Old Trafford. Meanwhile, Aston Villa were looking to pull off another shocker after their impressive victory at the Emirates on the opening day.
Paul Lambert was skeptical about his team’s fixture with Chelsea getting moved to the first week of the Premier League, getting sandwiched between two weekend games against Arsenal and Liverpool. Nevertheless, his young side had that confidence and morale boost from the Emirates win and a point would surely be a bonus to take away from the home of the title favorites. Last season, in the same fixture, Eden Hazard ran the Villa defense ragged with his extreme skills and showmanship earning a well deserved victory for his team. This time around, the Villians were not going to have any of it and seemed to be more prepared to deal with such kind of threats.
Mourinho named an unchanged defence and midfield from the match against Hull City on Sunday. Demba Ba and Juan Mata came in for Fernando Torres and Kevin de Bruyne respectively. David Luiz was out injured and Torres didn’t even make the bench.
Chelsea Team: Cech – Cole, Terry, Cahill, Ivanovic – Ramires, Lampard – Oscar, Mata, Hazard – Ba
Aston Villa’s starting XI was pretty much the same as the one which was fielded at the Emirates, with Nathan Baker being the only change. Ciaran Clark slotted in defense beside Captain, Ron Vlaar.
Aston Villa Team: Guzan – Luna, Clark, Vlaar, Lowton – Ahmadi, Delph, Westwood – Weimann, Benteke, Agbonlahor
Chelsea went one up after only 6 minutes, when Eden Hazard made himself some space to operate and was put through by a brilliant ball from Oscar. Hazard’s shot on goal was saved by keeper Guzan, but unfortunately he could only parry it onto his teammate Antonio Luna who knew nothing about it and couldn’t stop the ball from falling in the back of the net. In both of their league games, Chelsea made a very bright start to the matches and displayed that urgency to get an early lead. They were rewarded on both occasions.
While the statistics of the match point towards a dominant Chelsea performance, which is true, it was a very hard earned victory. Villa lined up in a narrow 4-3-3 with the 3 midfielders guarding their already narrow and deep defense. Wingers, Weimann and Agbonlahor were instructed to operate defensively and they filled in roughly at the wingback positions making a flat 5 midfield. Benteke was the lone man upfront.
This might suggest that the visitors sat back when Chelsea had the ball, but it was actually the opposite. They were pressing the Chelsea players with energy forcing them to play early with no time on the ball. But, Villa’s pressing along with their positioning was very disciplined. They didn’t get past John Terry and the only players left with time on the ball were Cech and Cahill. Lambert was pretty happy to allow Cahill to have the ball for two reasons. One, his long balls are not as accurate as Terry and two, Ba was the only aerial threat against the likes of Vlaar and Clark. Paul Lambert might have had to think differently, if Terry and Luiz were playing together.
That opening goal was all Chelsea could manage in the whole of the first half. The Blues saw a lot of the ball, but were not able to penetrate a determined opponent midfield. The extreme narrowness of Villa’s 4-3-3, congested any sort of space for the likes of Oscar and Hazard to operate in. The next step for Chelsea would have been to bomb their fullbacks forward, but Mourinho didn’t order that as he feared the threat Weimann, Benteke and Agbonlahor posed on the counter.
Also, Demba Ba was not covering himself in glory with all his offside runs, the only time when the Villa backline was reasonably higher up the pitch. His efforts to drop deep and influence play were unfruitful. So, the Blues had to keep trying to create an opening in the whole of the first half with ground passes. Unsurprisingly, it was a counter attack by Villa, that resulted in a Benteke equalizer right on the stroke of half time. Agbonlahor got a yard on Ivanovic on the wing and his cross was taken down well and slotted in clinically by Benteke with Cech and Terry reeling on the floor.
One more notable point here would be the non-impact play of Chelsea’s two time player of the year, Juan Mata. Just recovered from injury, Mata was thrown into the starting XI to get some match time. But it probably might have been too soon for him to play competitive football, considering the amount he has played over the past 2 years. Mata was told to play on the right wing, a move Mourinho openly confessed to try out, and it turned out to be a flop. The difference between the match against Hull City and this was that de Bruyne was much more composed on the ball and his movement was much better than Mata. He moved into central positions and overloaded the area in front of the Hull defense. In the Villa match on the other hand, Mata did move into central positions, but was not as effective as de