Just 48 hours after dispatching Crystal Palace, Aston Villa were back at it again with only 1 enforced change in the starting 11. Chelsea on the other hand made 6 changes from their starting eleven that lost against rival’s Arsenal.
With an inform Villa side and a Chelsea team looking to respond, it was a cagey first 30 minutes. The stand out moments being a mazy-run from Jack Grealish who eventually cut it back with the ball just eluding Anwar El Ghazi. Chelsea arguably had the best chance through Christian Pulisic, intercepting a poor pass from Grealish and breaking into the box on his right foot, shooting just past the post.
Chelsea did eventually break the deadlock and quite typically through Olivier Giroud, making it 10 goals in 10 appearances against Villa. Perhaps the most disappointing part of the goal was the lack of tracking back from Bertrand Traore, leaving Ben Chilwell unmarked and in acres of space to put in a good cross, with Giroud heading home at the near post.
Villa started the second half well and brought it back onto level terms through an in-form El Ghazi, who’s now scored 5 goals in 5 games since regaining his place back into the side. The move began with a controversial tackle from Andreas Christiansen on Jack Grealish, with the defender staying on the floor after the collision. Villa continued their attack with the ball making its way out to Matty Cash, eventually delivering a superb cross to an unmarked El Ghazi whose first-time volley made its way through the keeper’s legs.
Perhaps the most encouraging sign for Aston Villa was how they were able to compete against Chelsea and push for a victory rather than sit back and try to see out a draw. This despite Chelsea’s ability to bring on over £120-million’ worth of players in Timo Werner and Kai Havertz. In stark contrast, Smith’s substitutes were to bring on academy graduates Keinan Davis and Jacob Ramsey. Ramsey almost made an instant impact with his first touch, curling a shot just past the post from the edge of the area.
The stand out performance and man of the match award went to John McGinn. It was a tireless display who, despite playing 90 minutes just two days ago, looked as if he could have carried on after the full-time whistle went. A real box-to-box performance who was as impressive defensively as he was going forward. An almost sensational goal would’ve topped the performance off with a left-footed drive rattling the crossbar just after 68 minutes.
The draw against Chelsea sees Villa stay above them in the table on goal difference only. With 14 games played and still 2 games in-hand, Villa are 5th in the table going into the new year. We now face a tricky January playing Manchester United (Friday), Liverpool (FA Cup), Tottenham and Everton before ending the month with a return trip to Burnley.
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