Chelsea’s title aspirations took a major hit on Saturday evening as they succumbed to Aston Villa 1-0 at Villa Park, thanks in large part to a controversial red card shown to Willian on 68 minutes. The result still leaves Chelsea top of the table on 66 points, but they now have only a 6 point lead over Manchester City while having played 3 MORE games, not to mention the fact that Chelsea are also trailing the Citizens by a massive margin in the crucial goal differential department.
Jose Mourinho’s men never truly grabbed the bull by the horns against Villa, always nicking a chance here and there without through and through dominating the match. The visitors actually went in front near the 41st minute mark for a brief period when Chelsea youngster Nemanja Matic bundled home after a corner kick, but after a brief consultation between head official Chris Foy and his linesman, the goal was ruled out as Matic was judged to have controlled the ball with his forearm prior to pushing it past Brad Guzan at the near post. That was Chelsea’s best chance of the first half while Villa truly didn’t have one although both Cristian Benteke and Gabby Agbonlahor flashed shots wide of Petr Cech’s goal in a largely uneventful first 45 minutes.
The action spiked significantly in the second half with it reaching a fever pitch on 68 minutes when Willian, who seemly barely tapped Villa’s Fabian Delph before the latter lost his balance and collapsed to the Earth, with Foy flashing a second yellow at the Brazilian and quite unjustly reducing Chelsea to 10 men.
Despite this setback, Chelsea still appeared a threatening side and should have done much better from a close range free kick that was thrown away with Edin Hazard and substitute Demba Ba failing to connect on a sneaky shot/pass routine. Villa held down the fort defensively though and struck in incredible fashion on 82 minutes, with Delph stealing a pass and leading Villa on the break before dishing the ball out to an unmarked Marc Albrighton, who sent the ball back into the box for Delph who scored spectacularly with a no-look heel-flick that sputtered into the far left corner of goal to send Villa Park into jubilation. The goal was truly magical as the pictures and video below attest to, probably better than I tried to convey through words…
Regardless, the sumptuous goal lifted the spirits of the 11 Villa men on the pitch, and they left no gaps for Chelsea to exploit during the game’s dying embers. Although it got wild at the end of stoppage time with Ramires shown a second yellow in the space of 4 minutes and with it his marching orders after an absolutely horrendous challenge on Karim El Ahmadi after El Ahmadi successfully slide tackled the ball away from Ramires, leading to the Brazilian executing a bone-crunching and ankle-snapping stud tackle on his ankle.
The resulting dust up saw both dugouts empty with Mourinho invading the pitch and wishing to ask the head official Foy a question on the matter, one Foy refused before banishing him to the stands for all of 1 minute before he blew for time to signal Villa’s title altering win on the night.
Mourinho later went on to state that the reason for his angst towards the end was due to the actions of Villa’s Agbonlahor, whom he claimed raced off the bench following the tackle and “put his hands on the neck” of an unspecified Chelsea player. Throughout the postgame interview, Mourinho stated he did NOT wish to speak on the officiating for fear of receiving a charge from the FA as a result. Still, the visibly frustrated Mourinho continually praised his side’s performance on the night and no doubt still his extreme confidence in their ability to win the league, despite the massive step back the Londoners took tonight.