Anwar El Ghazi continued his recent scorching streak to seal a point for Aston Villa at Chelsea, who have won only once in five league outings.
Frank Lampard reportedly hoped for an answer to their sad 3-1 loss to Arsenal and dropped Timo Werner with plenty of money, but the Blues weren’t more fluid against Dean Smith’s side.
Villa’s hopes of keeping five consecutive high-flying clean sheets for the first time since September 1998 came to an end in the 34th minute of Olivier Giroud’s goal, making it seven successive goal matches against Villans in the Premier League for French.
But Anwar El Ghazi equalized his fifth goal in as many games in the 50th minute and it proved to be decisive, while Chelsea were fortunate enough not to concede when John McGinn hit the crossbar.
5 – Anwar El Ghazi has scored five goals in his last five Premier League appearances, having only scored four in his first 37 games of the competition. Hot. pic.twitter.com/nrDnV1cXty
– OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 28, 2020
An entertaining start saw both sides threaten, Jack Grealish having an 18-yard curling effort dismissed by Edouard Mendy before Christian Pulisic sank into the side net at the other end.
Another opportunity was dismissed by Pulisic just after the half hour mark, although two minutes later Chelsea took the lead – Giroud sending a strong header from Ben Chilwell’s inviting delivery.
Villa equalized early in the second half when Matty Cash’s cross found El Ghazi at the back post, and he made it home thanks to the legs of Mendy, who probably should have done better.
Chelsea’s reaction was not categorical and Villa went terribly close to a spectacular second, the ball gently breaking for McGinn with 30 yards to go and his fierce effort funneling off the bar.
Lampard introduced much-maligned Werner and Kai Havertz towards the end, though neither inspired an improvement in Chelsea’s fortunes against a crafty backline from Villa.
What does it mean? Chelsea’s slide will continue
Lampard’s hopes of mounting a credible title challenge are seemingly dwindling by the day – they could be nine points behind the top in their next game.
To make matters worse, they have played more games than most of the teams around them and are showing little sign of improvement, with these significant additions from Werner and Havertz still far below expected.
At this rate, Chelsea will struggle to even finish in the top four, while Villa continues to thwart the odds as they are now five unbeaten in the league.
Money is on money
Grealish naturally gets a lot of applause in this Villa squad, and he was once again impressive, but right-back Cash arguably played an even bigger role. Not only did he advance successfully, with the visitors’ goal coming from one of his four crosses, he was also reliable at the back – his three tackles and two interceptions were team highs, while his total of five clearances was only improved by Kortney Hause.
Pulisic fails to inspire
He was pretty sharp on the left flank and worked hard, his 10.8 kilometers driven only behind N’Golo Kante, but Pulisic just wasn’t efficient enough during the procedure. He should have done better with his first chances and otherwise failed to produce a single key pass.
3 – Anwar El Ghazi is the first Aston Villa player to score in three successive Premier League games since Tom Cleverley in May 2015. Streak. pic.twitter.com/sNyB07oA1i
– OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 28, 2020
Opta key facts
– Chelsea have lost just one of their last 14 Premier League home games (W10 D3), with this lone loss against Liverpool earlier this season.
– Since losing to Liverpool in July, Villa have suffered only one loss in their last nine away matches in the Premier League (W5 D3).
– Chilwell equaled his best total of four assists of the Premier League season, with the Chelsea defender already having as many goal implications in this campaign as in 2019-20 (6-2 goals, 4 assists).
– Since his Premier League debut in August 2012, Giroud has scored more header goals than any other player in the competition (32).
– Villa scored 51 Premier League goals for Chelsea – only against Manchester city and Manchester United (both 53) conceded more on the road in the competition.
Chelsea now have a fairly substantial break until they return to home action at Manchester City in a potentially exciting meeting on Sunday, assuming it is not postponed due to the COVID outbreak -19 in the ranks of Pep Guardiola. Villa, on the other hand, has another tough job on New Years Day as they travel to Manchester United.