Ivanovic holds patched-up Chelsea together
Aston Villa 0 Chelsea 0
Monday 18 October 2010
Gary Lineker may have been in a London television studio rather than at Villa Park but he summed up Saturday evening's game pithily enough: "Good first 10 minutes, good last 10 minutes and a lot of dross in between." The managers of the two teams concerned were naturally less dismissive, for each had reason to be pleased with a just outcome.
Gérard Houllier has now overseen four games since returning to English football, in which Aston Villa have been beaten only at Tottenham, and narrowly there. Taking a point against the champions – "Double winners," he corrected his questioner – was all the more satisfactory given he lost three players on the morning of the game. Chelsea's day, by contrast, had begun much better when Manchester United snatched a draw from the jaws of victory at home to West Bromwich Albion, a team Carlo Ancelotti's side beat 6-0 in August.
Ancelotti will have felt some apprehension about visiting a ground where Chelsea have been less successful than any other in the Roman Abramovich era and he too was missing personnel in Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, Alex, Salomon Kalou Yossi Benayoun and Daniel Sturridge. The loss of Alex, the big Brazilian central defender, was less keenly felt than the other quintet, since the equally-powerful Branislav Ivanovic was outstanding alongside John Terry, whether throwing himself in the way of shots at one end of heading against a post at the other.
After an uncertain beginning by the champions, sorry, Double winners , in which Stephen Ireland should have scored and John Carew could have, it was in going forward that Chelsea's absentees were most missed. Nicolas Anelka is more subtle but less menacing than Drogba, as he emphasised by wasting Ashley Cole's perfect cross in the eventful last 10 minutes to which Lineker referred. He would have looked doubly silly had Ciaran Clark or Nigel Reo-Coker been closer than clipping a post or chipping wide respectively on either side of that effort. Gaël Kakuta, whose controversial acquisition from Lens cost Chelsea much trouble, did not look worthy of the fuss on Saturday and it was significant they improved greatly after Yuri Zhirkov replaced him at half-time.
Zhirkov, Kalou and Sturridge will all provide a better option to fill one of the wide positions tomorrow as Chelsea take on Spartak Moscow in the Champions League tomorrow. Ancelotti wants to rest Michael Essien and, although Alex will be available, Terry will tell the manager he wants to play on the artificial pitch despite a bad back and bad memories of the Luzhniki Stadium, where his missed penalty in 2008 cost Chelsea a first European Cup.
"I feel as though I have got that out of my system now," he said. "I just really want to win this competition." Terry pulled out of England's game last week with Montenegro and was forced to sit and watch a grimmer goalless draw than Saturday's. "With England we need to start getting back to winning ways and re-sort the confidence because I think the confidence is missing," he said.
Possession Aston Villa 47% Chelsea 53%. Shots on target Aston Villa 5 Chelsea 6. Referee L Mason (Lancashire). Att 40,122. Man of the match Ivanovic. Match rating 6/10
Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'
Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance
Marvel has released first teaser trailer week early after it leaked online
Latest in Sport
Anderlecht vs Arsenal match report: Kieran Gibbs and Lukas Podolski pounce as Arsenal leave it late
Manchester United vs Chelsea: Daley Blind admits United must 'play our best game' to get a result at Old Trafford
Liverpool vs Real Madrid player ratings: Was Cristiano Ronaldo the star man? And how did Mario Balotelli fare?
Liverpool vs Real Madrid match report: Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema run Reds ragged at Anfield
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was shirt swapping the real reason?
- 1 As an ex prostitute, I urge all the political parties to commit to the Sex Buyer Law
- 2 Nokia no more: Microsoft drops once-ubiquitous mobile name – in favour of its Lumia brand
- 3 Renee Zellweger on plastic surgery: 'I'm living a fulfilling life and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows'
- 4 Australian café owner sparks debate after saying 'No' to having unruly children on premises
- 5 Couple die within 28 hours of each other after being married for 73 years
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'