Chelsea and Aston Villa squared off at Stamford Bridge on Monday evening, in what was the home side’s last match of 2020.
The Villains went into the match off the back of a convincing 3-0 victory over Crystal Palace. They entered the night in 5th place—level on points with Chelsea— and without Tyrone Mings, who received a red card in the win over Palace.
Meanwhile, Chelsea looked to bounce back from their 3-1 loss to Arsenal at the weekend. Frank Lampard was not a happy man in his post-match report, and he needed a strong response from his players this time.
Lampard made a host of changes in this match, bringing on the likes of Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger, and Callum Hudson-Odoi back into the fold. As if the game needed more publicity, Everton’s home tie with Manchester City got postponed due to Covid-19.
Here are the three key moments that defined Chelsea’s cagey affair with Aston Villa.
Giroud’s sweet header
Despite Villa’s fast start to the match, it was Chelsea that got the first goal. Olivier Giroud’s cool, near-post header gave the hosts the lead in the 34th minute. Giroud flicked the ball to Christian Pulisic before finding himself on the end of Ben Chilwell’s cross.
VAR replays showed Chilwell was marginally onside, as Giroud’s clinical instincts provided the spark that Chelsea needed.
Half-time— Mark Worrall (@gate17marco) December 28, 2020
Chelsea 1 Villa 0
-a reaction was needed & the players have stepped up.
-clinical Giroud, you love to see it
-clinical Pulisic, you'd love to see it
-CHO, excellent… feed him the ball more
-midfield & defence coping, just
-second goal needed, déjà vu scenario#CHEAVL
El-Ghazi megs Mendy
Aston Villa matched Chelsea’s energy throughout the match, but their leveler was a bit dodgy. Matty Cash provided a delicious ball for Anwar El Ghazi to thump home past Edouard Mendy’s legs. El Ghazi—who is on a purple patch of form at the moment— grabbed his fifth goal in as many games just five minutes after the restart.
Before the goal, replays showed a coming together between Jack Grealish and Andreas Christensen that left the Danish center back floored and out of position. Grealish then proceeded to get back up quickly and pass the ball to Cash, who eventually picked up the assist. Villa equalized to Chelsea’s dismay, adding insult to injury.
A whisker away from winning
Football is a game of close margins, and this match was no different. With the teams deadlocked at one apiece, both Villa’s John McGinn and Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell had the chance to win the match.
McGinn’s thumping effort rattled the post in the 69th minute, catching Mendy and the entire stadium by surprise. The Scottish international’s strike would’ve been a goal of the month contender had it went in.
John McGinn really is back to his best isn’t he? What a goal that would of been if it had gone in 🤯— Ty Bracey (@TyBracey) December 28, 2020
Chilwell’s chance came in injury time. The left back’s well-struck volley beat Emiliano Martínez but sailed half an inch away from the right side of goal. Chilwell went agonizingly close to nicking the game for Chelsea, and the game ended all square at one apiece.
Chilwell's volley…would have been a goal of the season contender…goes just wide. #CHEAVL— Simon Johnson (@SJohnsonSport) December 28, 2020
Chelsea versus Villa was a tense affair filled with flying tackles, player confrontations, and what-if moments. Both sides remain inseparable both on the night and in the Premier League standings.