Good evening, I am George Overhill and I will be taking you through tonight’s match between Chelsea and Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea are looking to bounce back from the poor 3-1 loss at Arsenal 48 hours ago and Frank Lampard has made changes in search of that.
So that’s captain Cesar Azpilicueta, centre backs Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen, Jorginho in the centre of midfield, Callum Hudson-Odoi on the wing and Olivier Giroud all in – big decisions from the Chelsea manager.
Lampard has told Amazon Prime Video Sport that “it’s impossible to ask the same 11 to play twice in two days time at the same level” so the changes were due “irrespective” of the loss to Arsenal.
Notably, Timo Werner has been left out for the first time this season, on his longest goal-drought in four years.
On the contrary for Dean Smith, just the one change for him. Tyrone Mings is suspended after being sent off in the win over Crystal Palace and is replaced by Ezri Konsa.
Smith is apparently unconcerned about fatigue in his team, telling Amazon “I’m still yet to see a footballer carried off the pitch with exhaustion.”
The differing levels in potential fatigue between the two sides might have something to do with the fact that Villa are unbeaten in four, winning three of those, and are sitting a place above Chelsea in seventh.
Chelsea by contrast have played two more games than their opponents and have lost three of their last four.Embed from Getty Images
The players are out and we are ready for kick off.
1 min – Jack Grealish is fouled back near one of his own corner flags. We can probably expect a few more of those tonight for the league’s most-fouled player.
3 mins – A cross-field ball from Hudson-Odoi finds Ben Chilwell advancing down the left, but Bertrand Traore tracks back well and eventually Chelsea win the first corner of the game.
4 mins – Mason Mount hits the first man with it. Referee Stuart Attwell then decides not to add to the Grealish foul counter twice, much to the delight of the Villa captain.Embed from Getty Images
5 mins – A second Mount corner finds its way into the centre this time and Rudiger improvises an effort with the outside of this boot, but it is easy enough for Emiliano Martinez.
6 mins – Grealish makes space for himself on the corner of the Chelsea area and curls a shot goalwards, with Edouard Mendy palming it behind.
7 mins – Another chance for Villa as the corner is cut back to Anwar El Ghazi, in the goals lately, whose shot has the sting taken out of it by Giroud and spins through to Mendy. The men from the Midlands already looking confident.
12 mins – Close! Grealish takes a break from threatening Chelsea’s defence by putting his own under pressure when he plays an aimless ball across his own half that Christian Pulisic pounces on and drives forward with. The American can only hit the side netting though.
13 mins – Azpilicueta needlessly concedes a corner but Grealish (apparently the only player on the pitch currently) obligingly floats it straight into Mendy’s hands.
15 mins – Another Chelsea corner after a Pulisic shot on the edge of the area is deflected wide but Martinez claims well in traffic.
17 mins – Grealish advances down the left and gets to the Chelsea byline before providing an inviting cut-back across the area that nobody is positioned to finish off. Mendy then brings down Pulisic who was seeing the ball out – a nailed-on penalty if they were not… on the same team.
19 mins – El Ghazi overhits a cross from the left. Not really of note other than it was action provided by someone other than Grealish.
20 mins – Ollie Watkins then hits a shot well over as someone else decides to join in.
Chelsea apparently reminding us who Callum Hudson-Odoi is there, which based on his recent opportunities is probably not a bad idea.
22 mins – Pulisic tries to go for an overhead kick in the Aston Villa area but only succeeds in kicking Matty Cash square in the head.
24 mins – The Villa right back is now up and back into the action, presumably after having passed the concussion protocols which seem to have no effect on anything.
Perhaps no surprise the keys on my keyboard that spell Grealish have steam coming off them then.
26 mins – Kortney Hause gets his head to a deep cross into the Chelsea box but cannot direct it goalwards.
Chelsea cannot be accused of the lazy performance they provided at the Emirates but they do look edgier than Villa.
30 mins – El Ghazi swings a ball in that Mendy is unable to claim, under pressure from Watkins. The ball falls to Cash who can only shoot over. Villa certainly looking dangerous.
32 mins – Olivier Giroud gets a nudge in the back as he tries to get on the end of a Chilwell cross, but the referee is uninterested.
32 mins – Close! A ball in from the other side then sees Giroud glance a ball against Cash. The ball sits up right in front of Martinez but Pulisic can only hook it over.
34 mins – GOAL! Chelsea 1-0 Aston Villa (Giroud)
Olivier Giroud stoops to nod in the opener for Chelsea to relieve some of the nerves for the hosts. Ben Chilwell, just onside down the left, is freed in space by Pulisic and chips a nice ball up for Giroud to put in low at the near post. That’s the first goal Aston Villa have conceded in over seven hours, so no mean feat.Embed from Getty Images
37 mins – Suddenly Chelsea look more confident, Pulisic and Chilwell both finding space down the left.
39 mins – Close! Mount, quiet so far, then picks up a loose ball from another Chelsea foray down the left, wriggles past a few Aston Villa defenders to find himself in a dangerous position in the box, but blasts over.
40 mins – That goal has completely changed the game for now. Pulisic again threatens on the left side of the area but a last ditch tackle thwarts him.
Is it fair to wonder whether that blow to the head that Cash received earlier might be corresponding to Chelsea’s repeated ability to get into threatening positions down his side?
44 mins – Martinez is just about unable to prevent Chelsea winning another corner down the (you guessed it) left, after Pulisic had again played Chilwell in.
45 mins – After some wrestling between Bertrand Traore and Rudiger, the retaken corner lands straight in Martinez’s gloves.
45 mins + 2 – In the second of two added on minutes, Azpilicueta picks up the first booking for blocking off El Ghazi who had played the ball past him down the left hand side.
HALF TIME – Chelsea 1-0 Aston Villa
Frank Lampard will be pleased with the reaction from his side as Chelsea take a lead into the break that is probably just about deserved. Aston Villa were edging the half up until the goal but fell away completely after conceding. Chelsea’s ‘Captain Leader Legend’, and now Villa assistant manager has plenty of opinions for Dean Smith as they head for the away team changing room, out in the car park somewhere.
That Giroud goal has caused somewhat of a stat explosion as well as settling Chelsea down, here’s another one…
Chilwell was indeed ever-present in that first half, with Pulisic, Giroud and Hudson-Odoi also putting in a performance so far. Pulisic probably should have a couple of goals by now though.
For Villa, to the surprise of nobody, captain Grealish was operating almost as a one-man team in the early exchanges, and doing pretty well with it. El Ghazi started to get in on the act before the goal when Villa’s attacking output fell off a cliff.
It is now 10 in 10 starts for the Frenchman. Hard to believe it was only a few weeks ago that it looked like he would be leaving in January to secure his place in the France squad. That seems very unlikely now and Didier Deschamps must be delighted.
For all Villa’s season has been impressive this season, they have not succeeded in retrieving anything from losing positions. Against Chelsea’s second-string defence tonight will they change that record?
46 mins – Back under way at Stamford Bridge.
To be fair to Matty Cash, it does appear that Traore lost interest in tracking back as the half went on, leaving a lot of those gaps that Chilwell and Pulisic popped up in.
Traore of course returning to the club where he broke into the senior ranks, with a short run in the Chelsea first team during their infamous 2015/16 implosion.
48 mins – Same old story. Chilwell is forward down the left and puts over an inviting cross. This time it is cleared by Matt Targett.
50 mins – GOAL! Chelsea 1-1 Aston Villa (El Ghazi)
That makes it five in five for El Ghazi. He is left completely free at the back post to side-foot a volley through Mendy’s legs and equalise. It was a lovely deep ball in from Cash on the right hand side. Chelsea are unhappy because earlier in the build up Christensen appeared to have tripped Grealish, but replays show Grealish actually kicked the Danish defender, who stayed down and was out of position.Embed from Getty Images
53 mins – Much like after Chelsea’s goal, that has brought the belief back into the visiting team. Villa get balls into the box from both sides in the following minutes without getting on the end of them.
Quite the purple patch for El Ghazi after the abuse he got from Villa fans a few weeks ago.
58 mins – N’Golo Kante exchanges a few passes and finds himself in space just outside the area. He lines one up with his left foot but it goes narrowly over.
59 mins – Another Pulisic advance down the left is eventually layed off to Kante on the edge of the box by Azpilicueta, but his shot is fairly straight forward for Martinez. Kante certainly growing in influence although Chelsea probably would prefer him not to be their main threat for efforts on goal.
Another great stat here…
El Ghazi now in the company of such esteemed goal scoring powerhouses as… Tom Cleverley for Aston Villa.
64 mins – Lampard is looking less than delighted on the touchline. Mason Mount swings another corner onto the head of the first man. That will not improve his manager’s mood.
65 mins – Traore is back to head behind for another Chelsea corner. If he can shut that door down the left then Chelsea will have a much harder time of things. Mount is immediately left free in that exact area to win another corner.
67 mins – Close! The corner is taken short before being swung in onto the head of Pulisic whose header is cleared off the line, before Azpilicueta hooks in the rebound. Replays show Pulisic was clearly offside though.
69 mins – Close! John McGinn crashes one against the bar from distance with Mendy rooted to the spot. Fantastic effort.
70 mins – Close! Suddenly it is end to end. Hudson-Odoi begins a move that leads to him taking a low shot from the edge of the area that Martinez gets down well to claim.
71 mins – Both goalscorers have just been booked for a little disagreement.
73 mins – It was Giroud’s last involvement though. He is replaced by Werner. Both of Chelsea’s big-money Germans are on now, as Kai Havertz also comes on for the anonymous Jorginho.
74 mins – Kante gets a booking for a late challenge on McGinn who is full of energy at the moment.
75 mins – Both of Chelsea’s substitutes could do with a performance. Kai Havertz starts as he will hope not to go on, losing out to McGinn outside his own box. Kante comes to the rescue.Embed from Getty Images
75 mins – Then Grealish is left in acres of space down the Villa left, but again Kante is back to clear up.
79 mins – Pulisic lines one up from range. It was going narrowly over but Martinez gets a fingertip to it.
80 mins – Chilwell arrives late to power a low shot through a crowd, but it comes off one of the forest of legs for yet another Chelsea corner.
81 mins – It comes to nothing. Chelsea lead the league in goals from corners but look far less threatening without Kurt Zouma.
82 mins – Close! First change for Aston Villa, and the substitute Jacob Ramsey almost instantly puts them ahead, curling one narrowly wide of the far post having been given too much space on the edge of the Chelsea area.
83 mins – Close! A loose ball falls to Timo Werner inside the Villa area but, as has been the case so often over his 10-game drought, he puts it over when he really should have done better.Embed from Getty Images
Is Lampard at risk if Chelsea fail to win here? Aston Villa are a strong team this year.
86 mins – A late change for Villa…
88 mins – Chelsea not looking like a team urgently in search of a winner. This game still could go either way.
89 mins – Another Chelsea corner comes to nothing.
90 mins – As does another. Rudiger at least got on the end of this one but could only glance it a long way wide.
91 mins + 1 – We are into four minutes of injury time. Aston Villa, nearly all of whom played a couple of days ago, certainly do not look like they are more tired than Chelsea who made all the changes.
90 mins + 3 – Close! Chelsea get forward in numbers and Hudson-Odoi floats a ball over to Chilwell at the far post who hammers a sweet volley inches wide of the far post. Was that the chance?
90 mins + 4 – Ramsey hits a shot on the turn that is deflected wide for a late, late Villa corner. This is surely the last chance for either side.
90 mins + 5 – FULL TIME – Chelsea 1-1 Aston Villa – McGinn swings it in but Mendy rises highest to claim.Embed from Getty Images
Ultimately a very even game ends appropriately even. Aston Villa started the strongest before Olivier Giroud’s opener put Chelsea well on top for the remainder of the first half. The visitors responded well to Dean Smith’s half time team talk, equalising through Anwar El Ghazi, before an even second half could have gone either way.
Such an improvement from Aston Villa from last season. The two sides are still level on points, now in fifth and sixth respectively, but Aston Villa’s second best goal difference in the division and games in hand on many of the teams around them sees them in a very healthy position to end 2020.
Chelsea on the other hand will be satisfied that there was a reaction to the Arsenal defeat, but that is now only a solitary win in the last five, a shaky 3-0 over West Ham, and they end the year in a much more uncertain situation. Things were looking very positive after an impressive victory over Leeds not long ago. How quickly things change.
That’s it from me for tonight.
Click here to read Ryan Moran’s match report from tonight.
Sub-edited by Ryan Moran