Chelsea drop into bottom half of table following defeat to Aston Villa
Chelsea 0 Aston Villa 2
Chelsea slipped into the bottom half of the Premier League table as John McGinn’s brilliant 30-yard strike helped Aston Villa to a 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge and heaped pressure back onto Graham Potter.
The Villa captain struck 10 minutes after half-time to double his side’s lead in front of a frustrated home crowd who made their displeasure heard after Ollie Watkins had pounced on a mistake by Marc Cucurella in the first half to stun Potter’s side.
Chelsea had been their usual enterprising selves going forward up to that point, but their struggles in front of goal showed no sign of resolution in a game that showed yet again their lack of bite in the opposition box.
At the final whistle, boos rang around Stamford Bridge, as some supporters behind the dugout again called for Potter to go.
Villa almost handed the hosts the perfect start. Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez rolled the ball short to Boubacar Kamara, who dithered in possession and allowed Mykhailo Mudryk to nick it. Stamford Bridge sensed a first Chelsea goal for the Ukrainian, but Martinez got the better of his one-on-one duel with the forward to smother the ball to safety.
Chelsea were nearly made to pay instantly. Their defence, with Reece James dropped back into a central three in place of the injured Wesley Fofana, parted allowing McGinn to release Watkins running clear. With only the goalkeeper to beat, he pulled his shot badly wide.
McGinn went closer still on 15 minutes when his curling effort smacked the crossbar. Chelsea, suddenly on the back foot, had received two early warnings. Neither would be heeded.
The opening goal was a calamity for Cucurella. Douglas Luiz’s hopeful ball forward looked an easy mop-up job for Kalidou Koulibaly, but the back-peddling Cucurella took it away from his defensive partner and helped it into the path of Watkins. This time the Villa striker was not so profligate, lifting it over Arrizabalaga for 1-0.
The hosts rallied. Joao Felix showed quick, delicate feet inside the box to make space for a shot that Martinez did well to beat behind at his near post. Mudryk’s moment looked finally to have arrived when he found space and broke Villa’s back line, but shot too early, too close to Martinez to bring an equaliser.
Soon Chelsea’s pressure was relentless. Ben Chilwell came close when he pulled away from McGinn down the left and struck a post, before Felix blasted wide following a goalmouth scramble.
Martinez was required again, this time diving low to his left to keep out Kai Havertz’s clipped effort towards the bottom corner. Potter’s team were on top but following a familiar pattern, fluid football yielding plenty of chances but nothing besides frustration to show for it at the break.
McGinn’s goal after 55 minutes deepened the home side’s woes. The Villa captain’s whipped effort from 30 yards was hit crisply as Chelsea failed to clear a corner. The blue shirts that flung themselves in front to try and block the shot did so in vain, and the ball dropped beyond Arrizabalaga’s dive into the bottom corner.
From there on, Chelsea kept toiling, applying busy, urgent pressure, but which offered little penetration and never looked like threatening Unai Emery’s side’s lead. N’Golo Kante emerged from the bench to play his first minutes under Potter, but soon it was clear it would be in a losing cause.
Villa climb into ninth place above Chelsea, whose hopes of a finishing in a European place now appear increasingly remote.