The Villa Report – Chelsea 0 Aston Villa 2
In a Word
Pivotal: ‘Important because other things depend on it.’
The Carter Report
As Unai Emery’s away day specialists rolled into west London, the question on the lips of Villa fans was could we finally escape from the purgatory of 11th place and break into the top half of the table? Standing in the way were an inconsistent Chelsea side led by Graham Potter. With only one win at Stamford Bridge in the last 20 years, could Emery put an end to yet another unwanted record?
The Spaniard made two changes to the team who beat Bournemouth two weeks ago, with Ashley Young coming in for the injured Matty Cash, and Boubacar Kamara making a welcome return, with Leon Bailey dropping to the bench.
A breathless first half started with a period of concerted pressure from the home side, pinning Villa back into their defensive third. Despite this, there was potential to create chances on the breakaway, and this is precisely what happened when Ollie Watkins was released one-on-one with the Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, unfortunately screwing his shot wide of the far post.
Worryingly, Kamara picked up a booking and an injury when trying to stop Chelsea making a breakaway of their own. Soon after this, a delightful Villa move culminated in John McGinn hitting the crossbar from the edge of the area. Chelsea had been warned.
On 18 minutes, Villa took the lead after a mistake by Marc Cucurella allowed Watkins the freedom of Stamford Bridge to casually lob the ball over Arrizabalaga. The Villa front man has been transformed under Emery, with this his fifth goal in as many consecutive away games.
Despite constant Chelsea pressure for the rest of the half, most notably culminating in an excellent Emi Martinez save from Mykhailo Mudryk, Villa were holding firm. Just before the break, the referee came to Villa’s rescue, spotting a Ben Chilwell push on Young before heading into the net.
A clearly struggling Kamara was replaced by utility man Calum Chambers at the break – lets hope that this is more of an impact injury than anything else for the Frenchman.
11 minutes into the second half, Villa were in dreamland, courtesy of a swirling, emphatic strike from Super John McGinn from some 25 yards out. Cue pandemonium in the away section. The Meatball certainly has had plenty of sauce in the past week, adding to his goal for Scotland in the international break.
£20 Villa Away Shirts
Despite more pressure from the home side, the feeling was that this was turning into another Emery away day masterclass. Chances came and went for the hosts, perhaps most notably when Martinez improvised to save with his feet from Joao Felix. The defensive solidity demonstrated by the away side was tremendous, as they saw the game out to ensure a chorus of boos from three sides of the ground at the final whistle.
A special mention for a few players here; McGinn was superb in the middle of the park, a constant nuisance to Chelsea and proving that he can replicate his international goalscoring form in a claret & blue shirt. Alex Moreno, now seemingly preferred to Lucas Digne at left-back, put in another solid shift. Ashley Young strengthened his claim to be the Benjamin Button of the Premier League with another quality performance at right-back. And finally, Ollie Watkins proved once again that he can be a consistent goalscorer at this level.
With 10 games left, this win has catapulted Villa into the top half, now sitting in 9th place in the Premier League, just two points off Brighton in 6th. The tactical genius of Emery has given Villa fans hope of a European campaign next term.
In seasons past, trips to Stamford Bridge have been the stuff of nightmares – but this time, it was Chelsea who were the April Fools.
Value rating (out of £30) – £30.