Villa fail to avoid Italian job

Football: Aston Villa 0 Chelsea 2

Those Aston Villa fans who thought they could avoid another showing of The Italian Job by nipping out to the football yesterday afternoon had a rude shock at Villa Park. They saw Gianfranco Zola mastermind a stylish heist as Chelsea cracked Villa's supposedly safe defence and stole three precious points.

Villa's defence had clocked up seven hours without being breached when Zola scored twice in five minutes. That made it four goals in four games for Zola and seventh place for Chelsea. With four home games and a trip to Nottingham to come, they could be up there by February.

Initially Ruud Gullit, who has become as fluent in managerspeak as his other languages, would not be drawn on their prospects but, betrayed by his natural eloquence, he eventually said: "I think it is very open. More teams can challenge for the title than before."

He also mentioned that Zola has clicked so well with Mark Hughes that Gianluca Vialli will start on the bench when he recovers fitness. With Franck LeBoeuf and Dennis Wise likely to be sitting alongside him Chelsea appear to have depth.

So, in theory, do Villa. When Brian Little, after an hour of Villa sterility, swapped Mark Draper and Savo Milosevic for Sasa Curcic and Tommy Johnson it seemed a good move.

It was almost vindicated within a minute as Johnson crossed to Dwight Yorke at the far post. Though Steve Clarke blocked his goalbound header the ball fell to Ian Taylor. But his shot was weak and Frode Grodas saved.

A minute later Zola, drifting across the box, suddenly whipped in a left- foot shot. It took a slight deflection off Ugo Ehiogu left Mark Bosnich wrong-footed and beaten.

Four minutes later the goalkeeper was pounding the turf in frustration as Zola pounced on an error. A long ball was headed back to the Australian by Fernando Nelson but, with Zola coming in, Bosnich hesitated allowing man and ball past him.

"They were two bad goals," Little said. "Mark should have done better with both. The first one only looked a slight deflection, after the second the contest was over. Yet, if Ian had scored 30 seconds earlier, we might have been celebrating instead."

"It came off Ugo's foot," Bosnich said. "I thought I did well to get to the ball with my leg. For the second I was worried if I continued with the challenge and caught Zola I would concede a penalty. With hindsight the decision was wrong - but everybody is good with hindsight."

It was Chelsea's first clean sheet since early September, 17 games ago. And, apart from that double effort from Yorke and Taylor, they never looked like conceding. The difference, recognised Little, was Gullit who played at sweeper. "He keeps it right for them," the Villa manager said.

While Gullit marshalled the defence Craig Burley shone in midfield. He created the only real chances of the opening hour. Eddie Newton shot too close to Bosnich with the first, the keeper made a good save from Zola with the second. There should have been another chance but Roberto Di Matteo, breaking onto Zola's pass, was hauled down by Riccardo Scimeca. The defender was very fortunate to see yellow, not red.

Villa had won their five previous league games but it was hard to see why. The two teams, playing identical formations and styles, cancelled each other out. With both sides defending deep there was no space to attack and the teams took turns in passing across midfield. Sometimes these tactical matches are described as footballing chess. This was more Trivial Pursuit. The easy questions - `can I make a square pass here?' and `can I lay the ball back there?' were answered well enough. But when it came to `can I beat this man and have a shot?' and `can I slide a pass behind the defence?' the tests were failed.

Aston Villa (3-5-2): Bosnich; Ehiogu, Staunton, Scimeca; Nelson, Taylor, Draper (Curcic, 60), Townsend, Wright; Milosevic (Johnson, 60), Yorke. Substitutes not used: Rachel (gk), Tiler, Joachim.

Chelsea (3-5-2): Grodas; Duberry, Gullit, Clarke; Petrescu, Burley, Newton, Di Matteo, Myers (Phelan, 60); Zola, Hughes. Substitutes not used: Hitchcock (gk), Johnsen, Nicholls, Sinclair.

Referee: P Danson (Leicester).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Environment
Sudan, the last male northern white rhino
environmentThe death of a white northern rhino in Kenya has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth