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Aston Villa 0-1 Chelsea


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Aston Vila 0-1 Chelsea F.C.

February 21 2009, Premier League, Villa Park, Birmingham

_45499436_ballack_pa300.jpg
Michael Ballack celebrates with goalscorer Nicolas Anelka.

Nicolas Anelka continued his scoring form to net the winner at Villa Park in a potentially vital win for the Blues.

Heading into the day's clash against the West Midlands side in fourth position, new manager Guus Hiddink will be delighted to see his side claim victory against their fellow Champions League contenders. A result that sees the visitors leapfrog their opponents into third position, Chelsea will certainly look to build on their improved recent form heading into their mid-week crunch clash against Juventus in the Champions League.

For his first team selection as Chelsea manager, Guus Hiddink made several changes from the side that had won away at Watford. Sticking with the same midfield and strike force, the Dutch coach elected to field Paulo Ferreira at left-back in place of the suspended Ashley Cole, whilst John Terry and José Bosingwa replaced Branislav Ivanovic and Michael Mancienne respectively.

Villa were without captain Martin Laursen, and the presence of the big centre-half as Blues striker Didier Drogba made a nuisance of himself throughout. Former Chelsea midfielder Steven Sidwell was on the bench, along with the fit-again John Carew. Emile Heskey and Ashley Young passed fitness tests and started the game.

It was Drogba who created the best chance in the opening exchanges, latching on to a through ball and launching an ambitious, angled effort that Friedel collected. At the other end, Villa went close when Cech flapped at a cross, but Heskey's rushed effort was high and wide thanks to John Terry, who managed to hurry his England colleague with an attempted challenge.

Agbonlahor wasted a half chance when his effort lacked the power to worry the Chelsea goalkeeper, before Lampard was gifted time and space, and almost punished the hosts with a brilliant shot from 30 yards that fizzed inches over Brad Friedel's crossbar.

But Chelsea demonstrated their class on 19 minutes as Nicolas Anelka put them ahead. Bosingwa played in Frank Lampard, who brilliantly danced between two Villa defenders with some brilliant footwork, before passing cutely into the penalty area to Anelka. With the goalkeeper rushing out, the Frenchman cleverly dinked the ball over the advancing American for his first goal in the Premier League since the equaliser against West Ham in December.

Kalou's pacey run threatened to open up the Villa defence that as becoming increasingly shaky, but Drogba and Lampard were not on the same wavelength, and the ball was cleared. From the subsequent corner, captain John Terry had a bullet header saved at point-blank range by Friedel after the England skipper had connected with Lampard's front post delivery. Without a league goal since Chelsea's visit to the Stadium of Light last season, the Chelsea number 26 will fail to come much closer without finding his name on the scoresheet.

Chelsea were almost punished for missing opportunities on 33 minutes when Ashley Young struck the crossbar from a freekick. Wrongly given the set-piece in the first place, the Villains came desperately close to equalising, but Heskey's follow-up header on the rebound was wide of the mark. The away end breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Terry could have scored again mere moments after the break but his header was cleared off the line by the alert Petrov, but Chelsea's attitude in the second half was far more defensive than their expansive play in the first period, preferring to keep the ball than run at the Villa defence which looked to be buckling under the pressure from the Chelsea attack.

Cech saved from Agbonlahor with relative comfort on 52 minutes, as the Blues looked happy to sit on their one-goal lead, but it still required effective concentration from the Chelsea shotstopper. Hiddink wasted no time in shaking the team up by bringing on Deco for Kalou to tighten the midfield.

Gareth Barry, the stand-in Villa skipper was next to try his luck from range, but again Cech was up to the task of denying the England midfielder, tipping his drive wide with a solid pair of wrists, before again shooting on 74 minutes - straight into Cech's well-positioned gloves.

Drogba fired wide with the angle against him, before Bosingwa had a brilliant chance on the counter. The Portuguese defender scored in previous trips to the Midlands against Stoke and West Bromwich Albion, but this time his shot was straight at Friedel after playing a clever one-two with Drogba, the Ivorian doing well to feed the ball back to his teammate. To compound Bosingwa's misery, the defender will miss next week's game against Wigan after picking up his fifth caution of the campaign.

Ballack could have wrapped up victory but his rocket shot was tipped over by Friedel after being set up brilliantly by Deco - the former Barcelona man weaving between the Villa defenders. But the day was Chelsea's, and Guus Hiddink was given a winning start to his reign as manager of Chelsea Football Club.


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The TalkChelsea.net Man of the Match award goes to...

Frank_Lampard_521463a.jpg

Frank Lampard

Aston Villa:
Friedel; Cuéllar, Knight, Davies (Carew 70), L Young; Milner, Petrov, Barry ©, A Young; Agbonlahor, Heskey

Manager: Martin O'Neill

Chelsea: Cech; Bosingwa, Alex, Terry ©, Ferreira; Ballack, Mikel, Lampard; Kalou (Deco 55), Drogba (Belletti 90), Anelka

Manager:
Guus Hiddink

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