Chelsea Dunne and dusted by pure hard work

Aston Villa 2 Chelsea 1: Ancelotti's midfield diamond not allowed to sparkle as Villa use their heads to exploit defensive lapses

A fixture that Chelsea won in Guus Hiddink's first League game last February with an early goal seemed to be going precisely the same way when Brad Friedel allowed Didier Drogba to score from 30 yards. Eight months on, however, Aston Villa have more about them than the side that faded so badly after that defeat last season and by profiting from some unusually poor defensive work they scored twice from corners to achieve another victory over one of the acknowledged big four to follow success at Liverpool in August.

Friedel and James Collins, who had been too easily turned for Drogba's goal, recovered well, the goalkeeper bringing off a series of saves to preserve the lead. James Milner, having demonstrated his versatility for England by filling in at left-back on Wednesday, was excellent on more familiar ground wide on the right, where he worked prodigiously before moving back inside as Villa retreated into a 4-5-1 formation for the final quarter of an hour.

Emile Heskey, another England candidate in need of playing time, was given only 10 minutes as a substitute and cannot expect to displace John Carew in the big Norwegian's current form; Ashley Young, dropped by Fabio Capello, and Gabriel Agbonlahor, who replaced him in the squad, were fitfully impressive, two inswinging corners by the right- footed Young bringing the goals.

The visitors worked some neat triangles in midfield but were dependent as ever on the full-backs to supply their width and even when Joe Cole was introduced for his first League appearance of the season towards the end, he went into Deco's role behind the two strikers. Carlo Ancelotti might have been expected to send John Terry forward for the final fling; instead his team continued to try threading short balls through the needles of the Villa defence. It was a packed defence by then, and with Richard Dunne another lionheart alongside Collins, Drogba and Nicolas Anelka were continually crowded out.

Villa's manager Martin O'Neill said: "Maybe we've learnt some lessons from last year. When we played Chelsea in February we were third in the table, going strong but we surrendered fourth spot and finished sixth. I think we've made progress, we've got some good players and a decent squad and that's been really encouraging."

Having been brought down to earth in embarrassing and painful fashion on the touchline when Anelka crashed into him, O'Neill is now hoping that he and his players will keep their feet on the ground. "It's a setback for Chelsea and a great boost for us, but I wouldn't draw 15 conclusions from one game. I think Chelsea are a great side."

As in defeat at Wigan recently, they rarely looked like one yesterday. Pushed back while Villa started as brightly as the autumn sunshine, they must have surprised themselves in taking the lead after 15 minutes; all the more so since the vastly experienced Friedel was at fault on his 198th consecutive League appearance.

Frank Lampard played an ordinary pass forward for Drogba, who turned it into a threatening one with his sudden turn past Collins. The shot from almost 30 yards was routine until it bounced in front of the goalkeeper, who would have kept it out had he not gone to ground, watching in anguish as the ball reared up over his arm.

Before half-time there were further opportunities for Deco and Drogba, but Friedel redeemed himself with a superb save and Collins blocked bravely. In between times, critically, Villa had won an equaliser. Young whipped over a corner from the left, and Lampard merely nudged his header dangerously across goal, where Dunne was unmarked to head in for the second successive match.

Chelsea were rattled, Drogba running 20 yards to bawl out Ashley Cole, who was immediately booked for an unnecessary foul. Worse, they conceded another bad goal only six minutes into the second half. It was almost what Match of the Day used to call an action replay: Young's corner, dreadful marking with the goalkeeper Petr Cech nowhere and a firm header by an unattended centre-half – this time Dunne's partner Collins.

Ancelotti's initial reaction was that his team had played "a good match". Further analysis of the videotape before he concentrates on Atletico Madrid this week may offer conflicting evidence.

Ref watch

Steve Bennett having declared himself unfit – no jokes please, Sir Alex – the fourth official Kevin Friend took over for his third Premier League match of the season and handled it well.

Steve Tongue

Attendance: 39,047

Referee: Kevin Friend

Man of the match: Milner

Match rating: 8/10

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest in Sport
Sport
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen