Premier League – Chelsea held by Villa amid late drama
The pressure on managers Carlo Ancelotti and Gerard Houllier increased after Chelsea and Aston Villa drew 3-3 in their Premier League meeting at Stamford Bridge, with both sides scoring in the dying moments.
Frank Lampard extended his exceptional record against Villa by scoring from the penalty spot midway through the first half before Ashley Young replied with a spot-kick of his own four minutes before the break.
A Chelsea onslaught produced goals from Didier Drogba and John Terry in the late stages of the match, but Ciaran Clark ensured Villa left West London with something by grabbing a late leveller in injury-time.
The sharing of the points does neither side much good, with Chelsea remaining outside the Champions League places and Villa still too close to the relegation zone for comfort.
It is hard to believe it now, but when these two sides played out a goalless draw at Villa Park back in mid-October Chelsea were five points clear at the top of the table while Villa were eighth. Less than three months later, things are looking very different.
The most interesting team selections for either side were at centre-back. With Branislav Ivanovic suspended, Ancelotti handed defender Bruma his full Premier League debut 11 days before his 20th birthday, and for the most part the Dutchman gave an assured showing – although he was left lacking for Heskey’s goal.
For Villa, Richard Dunne returned to the team for the first time in three matches following his spat with Houllier.
The first half was relatively threadbare in terms of chances – Brad Friedel had to react quickly at the near post to deny Malouda before Cech tipped over Young’s speculative bending shot from distance – but more than its fair share of bookings.
Referee Lee Mason has been the most card-happy official in the division this season, but each of the nine bookings – seven to Villa players – and two penalties he awarded were with justification.
Lampard has now scored 10 Premier League goals against Villa, more than any other side.
Both Collins and goalkeeper Brad Friedel were booked for protesting against the decision, but Villa got the chance to reply from 12 yards when Clark blocked Paulo Ferreira’s clearance and Michael Essien upended Nigel Reo-Coker as the pair both went for the loose ball.
Young smashed the set piece into the roof of the net for his fifth goal of the season.
After a Ferreira blunder almost allowed Stewart Downing to score right from the restart, Villa were ahead a minute later.
Young floated a free-kick out to Downing on the wing, who then sent an inviting cross in for Heskey to out-jump Bruma and put Villa ahead.
Chelsea eventually got their act together and began to create plenty of opportunities as they chased an equaliser.
Ramires flashed a decent effort across the face of goal before Friedel pulled off two outstanding saves in quick succession, pushing a Lampard half-volley over the bar and saving with his feet from Malouda.
Chelsea’s persistence paid off in the 84th minute when Friedel blocked Daniel Sturridge’s effort but the ball came back to Drogba – and the Ivorian’s powerful shot from close range went in via a couple of deflections.
Terry then thought his first league goal in a year had sealed a big win when Friedel saved Drogba’s header only for it to land at the feet of the Chelsea skipper, who fired in the loose ball.
However, Chelsea let the victory slip from their grasp when substitute Marc Albrighton floated a cross towards the far post past a static Chelsea defence, and Clark was all alone to nod clinically into the bottom corner and snatch a draw from a fixture which Villa lost 7-1 last season.
Tony Mabert / Eurosport