I had a good feeling Saturday morning. Such was this positive feeling ahead of Chelsea’s visit that a self admission to the nearest asylum was mooted on Twitter. As it happens, Villa not only won, but delivered this huge victory with both style and guile aplenty.
Chelsea were neat and tidy, but aside from a couple of dangerous moves looked somewhat limited with Torres as the sole target man. The combination of Hazard, Willian and Oscar was certainly easy on the eye but lacked an end product. Torres ran around a great deal, but looks a shadow of the player he was.
Worrying for Chelsea fans, I reflected at half time how much they reminded me of Arsenal with their ‘tippy tappy’ style. And we all know how much the Gunners have won with that approach.
It took Villa a few minutes to settle. Our home form has been woeful for far too long. A change of personal owing to Bertrand’s ineligibility saw the rehabilitation of the maligned Bennett continue. It was pleasing to see not only his confidence grow, but that a lot of coaching appears to have gone into his positional awareness and keeping on his feet. Aside from a rash challenge on Ramires, it was a flawless display from the youngster.
Chelsea pondered but asked little of Guzan in the first half. Matic had a goal correctly ruled off for a handball, so indiscreet was the control with the arm, that he didn’t celebrate. Typically unsporting John Terry did his best to convince himself it was a goal, but the officials were unmoved.
Villa had first half chances to rue as well. The ever running Al Ahmadi blazed over a shot from distance when better options were on. Benteke fashioned a scissor kick from nothing to show that we were prepared to take this game to the visitors. The applause at half time was deserved, and the intrigue continued after the break.
It became an over more enticing fixture as the minutes passed. Increasingly both sides became more physical and fouls crept in, along with the bookings that lead to the correct dismissal of Willian.
Willian had been a menace all afternoon, ghosting between both left and right positions and switching feet at his leisure. Technically he is very gifted. However, brain cells appear limited. He was rightly booked for a late challenge on Al Ahmadi in the first half and was guilty of an obvious foul in the second. The debate is largely is whether it warrants a red card. My view is that the system punishes repeat fouls and the referee was correct. It was soft in the scheme of what you can be sent off for, but he took Delph out in flight towards goal. Much as Bennett was cautioned for in the first half. Two yellows equal a red, simple, off you go.
Lambert made perhaps his wisest tactical decision to date, smelling blood. Agbonlahor, visibly tiring after tearing forward all afternoon was replaced by the creativity and width of Marc Albrighton. It was a welcome show of intent from the manager. It also changed Villa’s shape at a time where Chelsea appeared undecided about whether to shut up shop or go for a winner themselves. This opened the game up significantly.
Chelsea continued to press but were visibly lacking discipline. Huge amounts of space opened up in the middle third. The constant whining between themselves and to the officials tired on the eye.
Then Villa struck. The excellent Westwood robbed Ramires and released Delph who drove at goal from the half way line, skillfully passing Matic. He then released Albrighton who cut the ball back. The already slick move was finished sublimely by Delph who by his own admission “Cruyff’ed” it into the back of the net. Cue wild and ear shattering celebrations on the Holte End. What a fine, fine goal. Most deservedly scored by Delph who was exceptional all afternoon.
Chelsea, shellshocked, probed for an equaliser, but again, lacked the composure, discipline or cutting edge. I was surprised not to see the appearance of Lampard, experienced and a regular thorn in Villa’s side over the years. Chelsea lacked such quality on the day, a clever, natural winner. Delph and Al Ahmadi bossed the midfield.
Villa hunted for more, Vlaar headed narrowly over whilst being manhandled from a corner and Delph could have secured the points, his effort deflecting and looping onto the crossbar to agonising groans.
The fixture was unfortunately marred by a scandalous assault on Al Ahmadi. Ramires lost all sense and reason, stamping down of Al Ahmadi, as they both went for the ball. The Morrocan, miraculously, did not suffer a horrific injury. It prompted the usual fracas from the benches that resulted in Mourinho, attempting to influence the referee, being sent off along with the disgraced Ramires.
Enough conjecture will be spoken about the tackle and Ramires may yet see a lengthy ban. But, it summed up Chelsea. Arrogant, immature and cowardly. I feel for their fans, Mourinho is quickly reducing their club to a byword for anything but respectful with his inane ramblings and questionable conduct. And the behaviour of players like Ramires and Terry are about as far away as I could ever wish an Aston Villa player to behave. I’d rather we never ever win another European Cup or another match than have such foul examples of the ‘modern’ footballer representing our club.
All in all this was a heroic performance. The points are welcome and now put further daylight between us and the real strugglers. It also points towards a show of self belief and confidence for the squad, which in itself may be more important in the long run. Up next, Stoke. Surely, we cannot win three home games on the bounce?!
Guzan – 8 – Assured.
Bennett – 8 – Solid and skillful.
Baker – 8 – Worked hard.
Vlaar – 9 – Towering presence.
Bacuna – 8 – Faultless.
Westwood – 9 – Superb passing.
Delph – 10 – Exceptional. Different class.
Al Ahmadi – 9 – Never stopped. Committed.
Wiemann – 8 – Ran and ran.
Benteke – 9 – Unplayable.
Agbonlahor – 8 – Stretched visitors.
Albrighton (Sub) – 8 – Huge assist.
Clark (Sub) – 8 – Steady.