Chelsea's disappointing December continues with more dropped points in a fascinating match at the Bridge. The hosts just about deserved their lead at the break through Olivier Giroud's header, but Villa posed a threat throughout and it was little surprise when they equalised after the break through Anwar El Ghazi. The result leaves Villa ahead of Chelsea in the table on goal difference and means Frank Lampard’s side have taken just four points from the last five league games.
- 2nd Half
- El GhaziRamsey81'
- El Ghazi71'
- El Ghazi50'
- 1st Half
Chelsea - Aston Villa
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- End of 2nd Half
A Villa corner is grabbed by Mendy and that’s the last of the action as the spoils are shared at Stamford Bridge.
Chilwell hits an absolute screamer of a volley from a long floated cross right across the face of goal. That would have been a goal fitting of winning any game… but it slid agonisingly wide from the Chelsea full-back.
We’re into four minutes of added time.
Mount whips in another corner and Rudiger meets it, but the defender was back-pedalling to get his head on it and fails to direct his effort on target.
Havertz wins a corner, but Villa again deal with the set-piece comfortably. It’s been all Chelsea in the last five minutes, but Villa have packed in the defensive numbers and have (so far) snuffed out any danger.
As the clock ticks towards 90 can either of these sides grab a late winner?
The ball drops to Werner in the box but he can’t keep his effort down and it picks out the empty stands behind the goal.
Ramsey very nearly scores with his first involvement, picking the ball up on the edge of the box and curling a superb shot fractionally wide of the far post. What an introduction that would have been.
- OffAnwar El GhaziAston Villa
- OnJacob RamseyAston Villa
Dean Smith makes a change and it’s the goalscorer El Ghazi going off with Ramsey adding some fresh legs for the final ten minutes.
Chilwell charges onto a clearance and catches his shot sweetly. It’s well blocked and deflected behind for a corner.
Pulisic’s shot from range is tipped over the bar by Martinez. There’s a chance it was going over anyway, but the keeper couldn’t take that chance and it was a smart stop.
- Yellow cardN'Golo KantéChelsea
There’s a bad-tempered element to this game now and Kante is the latest player in the book for a cynical foul to halt a Villa attack.
- OnKai HavertzChelsea
On come the two star summer signings Havertz and Werner to try and get this game back under control for the hosts.
- OffOlivier GiroudChelsea
- OnTimo WernerChelsea
His yellow card is Giroud's last involvement and Jorginho is also withdrawn.
- Yellow cardOlivier GiroudChelsea
VAR checked that but didn’t see anything that merited more than a yellow apiece.
- Yellow cardAnwar El GhaziAston Villa
Something’s gone on here and both El Ghazi and Giroud go into the book after a bit of what you might call head brushing.
A Chelsea effort is easily saved by Martinez and moments later Grealish’s threaded pass plays in El Ghazi, whose cutback has Chelsea’s defenders scrambling. This game has really opened up.
What a hit that is! McGinn lets fly from range with an absolute piledriver that slams against the crossbar. That would have been a screamer but Chelsea survive.
banks of four like so many teams have been against the top sides this season. They’re pushing for a winner themselves and all it takes is a chance.
Chelsea think they’re back in-front as Azpilicueta turns the ball home after a scramble from a corner, but Pulisic was offside with his flicked header and the flag is correctly raised.
Timo Werner is warming up on the sidelines and Lampard might be tempted to make some changes to freshen things up. His side have played well, but there’s plenty of firepower available to him on the bench.
Chelsea have responded well to the goal and Kante threatens to put the Blues back ahead with a shot from the edge of the box, but it’s straight down the throat of the keeper.
If Chelsea don’t go on to win this game I fear we’ll hear a lot about that incident between Grealish and Christensen, but it came a long time before the ball went in and it’s also questionable which way the foul should have gone. Either way it’s given Villa a great chance.
- GoalAnwar El GhaziAston Villa
GOOOAAALLL! Aston Villa are level and it’s El Ghazi who’s got it. Chelsea are furious because Christensen was down after a clash with Grealish throughout the move, but they still needed to do better than leave El Ghazi completely unmarked to slot a volley through the legs of Mendy. Christensen receives treatment and is fine to continue and the referee’s decision to play advantage (suggesting he thought the foul was actually by the Chelsea defender) isn’t disagreed with by VAR.
Chelsea go straight back to the pattern from the first half, working Chilwell into space down the left and the full-back whipping in a cross. This is a particularly dangerous delivery and Targett does well to deal with it as Hudson-Odoi lies in wait at the back post.
- 2nd Half
Villa get the game back underway and neither side have made changes at the break.
The whistle goes and Giroud gives a thumbs up as he receives a congratulatory shout of appreciation while heading off the field. The Frenchman's header separates the two teams at the break and Chelsea are probably deserving of their lead on balance.
- Yellow cardCésar AzpilicuetaChelsea
El Ghazi is brought down by Azpilicueta as the Chelsea defender looks to halt a Villa attack before it can really start and it’s the first booking of the game.
There will be two minutes off added time at the end of the first half.
Chilwell is so often Chelsea’s main attacking option down the left and the full-back is picked out again. This time his cross is turned behind for a corner, but Villa really need to work out a way to halt the supply out to that left flank.
Jorginho catches Grealish on the ankle with a late challenge, but the ref shows some leniency and keeps his cards in his pocket.
Chelsea are looking good now and work Mount into space inside the box at an angle. The midfielder should score, but he looks to lift his shot towards the top corner and gets a bit too under it, only finding the empty stands behind the goal.
That goal was a bit too easy for Chelsea, the flick from Giroud to get the ball out to Chilwell was simple, the cross was unchallenged and the forward was unmarked for his header. It’s set the game exactly how the hosts want it.
- GoalOlivier GiroudChelsea
GOOOAAALLL!!! Chelsea have the lead and it's Giroud who's got it. It will surprise nobody to hear that it's a run across the defender and a flicked header in at the near post - the trademark Giroud finish. There's a VAR check for a possible offside against Chilwell, but it's all okay (just about, very close that one). 1-0 Chelsea.
Pulisic very nearly puts Chelsea ahead as a cross pinballs its way to him with his back to goal. The American attempts to flick it over his own head from a couple of yards out, but can't keep the tricky effort down.
Giroud appeals for a penalty as he fails to get on the end of a cross into the box, and replays suggest he maybe had a point. Maybe. It was either a push or clever defending to ease him off the ball, very much on the line between the two.
Mendy spills a cross under pressure from Watkins and gets away with it when Cash’s follow-up goes over the bar. The Chelsea keeper remonstrates with the referee about the lack of a foul, but there wasn’t anything in that.
Grealish’s free-kick delivery into the Chelsea box is met by the head of Hause, but the defender can’t keep his effort down.
Thankfully Cash is okay to continue and Pulisic apologises to the Villa man.
Kante bends a cross towards Pulisic, who gears up for an overhead kick unaware that there is a defender closing up the space, catching Cash square in the face with his boot. It’s an accident but the Villa defender will require some medical attention and a concussion test.
Villa break through McGinn and Traore looks to whip a shot in from the right, but it’s well blocked by Rudiger. It’s a very even game so far, with Chelsea slightly shading possession but both teams offering plenty of threat.
Hudson-Odoi gives the ball away under pressure and the ref waves play on. Grealish weaves into the box and pulls a dangerous ball back from the by-line, but it somehow evades all the white shirts charging forward and Chelsea receive a huge let-off.
Chelsea are playing with far more spark than they did against Arsenal, but another attack breaks down on the edge of the box and the hosts are forced to settle for a corner which comes to nothing. Lampard will be encouraged by his team's energy and intent though.
That was so close that it even fooled the crowd-noise engineer, who pressed the celebration button before quickly replacing the cheers with disappointed groans. That’s where you really need the “waheeey!” option for the false-celebration… we’ll have to wait for actual fans to come back before we get that again I guess.
Grealish is involved again, but this time he almost gifts Chelsea a goal, playing a blind pass across the back that picks out Pulisic in space. The American is forced slightly wide but still should score with his effort that cracks into the side-netting.
A couple of clever little passes from Grealish pull Chelsea’s defence out of shape and indicate the threat that the England international brings.
A Grealish corner routine catches Chelsea out, but El Ghazi doesn’t make decent contact and it’s an easy save for Mendy.
Grealish cuts back inside onto his right and curls a shot towards goal. It’s a decent height for the keeper, but still needs stopping and Mendy palms it behind for a corner.
Another Mount corner causes a few nerves in the Villa defence and Rudiger manages a flicked effort on target, but it’s a comfortable stop.
Mason Mount, arguably Chelsea’s player of the season so far, wins his side a corner, but his set-piece fails to beat the first man and Villa clear.
Chelsea are kitted out in their traditional blue with white socks, while Villa are in their white away strip with dark shorts and socks. Two nice-looking kits it has to be said.
- 1st Half
The players take a knee (as they will continue to do so for the remainder of the season after a player vote passed overwhelmingly in favour) and Chelsea get the game underway.
In contrast to Lampard, Dean Smith has kept his side as similar as possible for today's game. Here are his thoughts on the selection quandary: "There’s two trains of thought, there’s rotating and getting fresh legs in or continuing momentum and confidence. I’ve looked them all in the eye and asked them if they’re ready to go again and they’ve told me they are. We’ve shown that we’ve got depth within our squad. They always worry you with the quality of players they’ve got. On their day they’re very, very good in this league."
In other news... you've probably heard already by now, but the Man City v Everton game that was due to follow this match has been called off due to a spate of positive coronavirus tests in the City camp.
Frank Lampard has been explaining his thinking behind the multiple changes in the pre-game broadcaster interview. “We haven’t had time to train, so the changes were going to come irrespective,” Lampard said. “It’s impossible to ask the same XI to play in two days’ time at the same level. They have a lot of confidence. We have to be aware of that. If we play at the right levels, with the right intensity, we should be OK, but we have to bring that.”
Chelsea were the big movers in the summer transfer window and we're just days away from the January window. Here's the latest headline transfer story from around European football.
And a little sub-plot sees the return of a certain John Terry to Stamford Bridge. The Aston Villa assistant coach has largely kept his head down in 2020, but he’ll certainly be keen to get one over his old friend and team-mate in the opposing dugout.
This is the sort of time during the season where early form can tail away, but Villa are showing few signs of dipping after their terrific opening to the campaign. They go into this game ahead of Chelsea on goal difference and with more than enough creative weapons to cause the hosts some serious difficulties.
Aston Villa make just the one change, with Konsa coming in for the suspended Mings.
While making changes at this time of year isn’t exactly a surprise, six changes and three of the back four being taken out of the starting line-up is a bit of a statement from Lampard. He blamed the players for the loss to Chelsea on Boxing Day, it’ll be interesting to see who he blames if there’s a similarly poor performance and result this evening.
It’s a strong Chelsea side but interestingly Frank Lampard has opted to leave both star summer signings, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, on the bench. Hakim Ziyech is out with an injury.
Good evening and welcome to tonight's coverage of Chelsea vs Aston Villa at the Bridge.