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Chelsea 4 - 4 Villa


BlueLion.

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Chelsea FC 4 - 4 Aston Villa

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Premier League, 26 December, 13:00 KO, Stamford Bridge, London

Ashley Cole and Ricardo Carvalho saw red as Chelsea and Villa shared the spoils in an incredible game at Stamford Bridge.

Despite the best efforts of Andrei Shevchenko and Michael Ballack, the former scoring twice and also getting an assist, Chelsea could not defend the lead they had earned after coming from two goals down. With Petr Cech making his second high-profile howler in the space of little over a week, it was Shevchenko who scored twice to bring the Blues to level terms before he freed Alex to power home the Chelsea third.

Yet Villa continued to press despite being reduced to ten men, and soon their patience was rewarded as Laursen steered in a far post volley to level the scores before Carvalho was dismissed. Yet Ballack found the net with his brilliant driven free-kick, before Ashley Cole's apparent handball on the line was deemed deliberate as he was shown the red card. Villa skipper Gareth Barry ensured the Midlands side earned a point as he sent Cech the wrong way with his penalty kick.

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The result leaves Chelsea even further behind Manchester United and Arsenal, with the current Champions now seven ahead of the FA Cup holders. And with the majority of their first team injured or suspended, Chelsea look set to brace themselves for another turbulent festive program.

Chelsea began with Michael Ballack on the bench after his comeback from injury the week before, and Cech had overcome a hip injury just in time to be declared fit. Alex partnered Carvalho as Cole and Ferreira were preferred in the full-back positions. Essien returned to the midfield and anchored alongside Lampard as Joe Cole and Kalou played wide in a four-man midfield. Shevchenko played upfront alongside Pizarro, making his first Premier League start since the end of August.

Villa were the brighter of the two teams in the opening period of the match as Chelsea began sluggishly. Young and Agbonlahor were giving Ferreira and Cole a torrid time with just five minutes played as the Villa wingers both cut inside to launch angled drives just wide of Cech's goal. Villa were showing the same attacking prowess which had earned them all three points in the reverse fixture in September.

With fourteen minutes played, Villa opened the scoring and deservedly so. Agbonlahor robbed Kalou on the halfway line before powering forward. The English wingers easily beat the full-back and his cross found the impressive figure of John Carew. The tall Norwegian international flicked the ball into the path of Shaun Maloney, enjoying a rare start - the former Celtic man made no mistake from four yards out as he powered the ball past Cech. The shell-shocked Chelsea goalkeeper was livid with his defence who had left Maloney and Carew unmarked in the penalty area.

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Cech did well to stop a deflected effort by Agbonlahor who was enjoying the freedom of the park. The Villa forward powered past Ashley Cole before his shot from a tight angle was well saved by the Chelsea goalkeeper, who gathered at the second attempt following a minor deflection off of the boot of the Brazilian Alex. Frank Lampard's injury added insult to injury as Chelsea inferiority was becoming more and more apparent, although Michael Ballack did replace the England player to earn his first Premier League appearance since the 0-0 draw away to Newcastle in April.

Things went from bad to worse for Chelsea. As their injury crisis worsened, they looked in huge danger of losing their unbeaten home record when Shaun Maloney scored his second of the match. The Villa striker fired what looked like a harmless effort straight at Cech, but the Chelsea goalkeeper could only look on as the ball spun across his glove and into the goal.

However they were handed a half-time lifeline when Zat Knight needlessly fell Ballack in the penalty area after brilliant play by Essien. The Ghanaian looked to power a shot at Scott Carson's goal, but instead fed Ballack who tried to get his shot away. However, the former Fulham man saw red as Phil Dowd pointed to the spot. Shevchenko stood up and fired the ball home, sending the Villa goalkeeper the wrong way. Half-time arrived and Chelsea had more than a good chance of taking something from the game.

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A sustained period of pressure from the home side began the proceedings in the second half. Shevchenko could have equalised from a tight angle and Ballack fired over from two excellent positions. However, when Andrei Shevchenko was given a second opportunity to strike the ball from range, he did not disappoint. Kalou received the ball and cut it back to the Ukrainian, who lashed his shot from twenty five yards into the net. Swerving viciously, the flight of the ball deceived Carson as it nestled in the roof of the goal. 2-2.

Shevchenko then turned provider as he wiggled his way past the Villa defence before feeding the ball to Alex, who had powered forward from defence. The Brazilian made no mistake, taking the ball past Mellberg before hammering the ball underneath the England goalkeeper. Chelsea had turned the game on its head, but not for long. Young's freekick was fizzed in, and the Chelsea defence were rooted to the ground as Laursen broke free to volley home past Cech. The Chelsea goalkeeper spat in disgust as his defenders were left rueing their poor marking.

Carvalho saw red in one of the game's major talking points for a two-footed lunge on Agbonlahor. The Portuguese later apologised to the Villa player but also agreed the tackle was worthy of the three-match ban. Chelsea and Villa were once again level in terms of scoreline and number of players on the pitch, but Michael Ballack had other ideas.

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His wonderful stroked freekick found Carson's bottom corner on 87 minutes but amazingly there was still time for Villa to equalise with virtually the last kick of the match. Ashley Cole looked to have handled on the goal line and was dismissed. Barry stepped up to fire home the penalty as Villa earned a deserved draw at Stamford Bridge. The unbeaten record was still intact, but Chelsea had been staring at a home defeat for the first time in almost four years of Premier League football.

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Match Fact : This is the first time Chelsea have conceded four goals in a Premier League game in exactly four seasons, when they lost 4-1 away to Charlton Athletic on Boxing Day 2003.

Chelsea: Cech (5), Ferreira (5), Alex (6), Carvalho (5), Ashley Cole (4), Kalou (6), Essien (6), Lampard (6) (Ballack (8)), Joe Cole (7), Pizarro (6) (Obi (6)), Shevchenko (9) (Wright-Phillips (7)).

Subs Not Used: Hilario, Ben-Haim.

Sent Off: Carvalho (80), Ashley Cole (90).

Booked: Essien, Alex, Ballack.

Goals: Shevchenko 45 and 50, Alex 66, Ballack 88.

Aston Villa: Carson, Mellberg, Laursen, Knight, Bouma (Harewood 90), Maloney (Davies 46), Reo-Coker, Barry, Young, Carew (Moore 78), Agbonlahor.

Subs Not Used: Taylor, Gardner.

Sent Off: Knight (45).

Booked: Reo-Coker, Harewood.

Goals: Maloney 14 and 44, Laursen 72, Barry 90

Attendance: 41,686

Referee: Phil Dowd

Man of the Match : Andrei Shevchenko

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Edited by BlueLion
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