Aston Villa’s triumph at Stamford Bridge sold the 10-man Blues additional pain as their faltering Premier League campaign took a turn for the worse for Chelsea.
Ollie Watkins took advantage of Malo Gusto’s expulsion for reckless play by scoring an incredible winner between Robert Sanchez’s knees from an extremely tight angle. Before Gusto was sent off for a careless tackle that struck Lucas Digne’s ankle, Mauricio Pochettino’s home team had a ton of opportunities but, as has become customary this season, failed to capitalise on any of them.
Excellent stops by Emiliano Martinez prevented one-on-one opportunities for Nicolas Jackson and Raheem Sterling, while Enzo Fernandez missed yet another great chance. Digne and Nicolo Zaniolo’s brilliantly hit volleys were stopped by flying fingertip saves from Chelsea’s goalkeeper, Alexis Sanchez.
Even after Gusto was dismissed, there were opportunities at both ends, but Villa took one via Watkins to go up to sixth, while Chelsea failed to score for the third game in a row to remain in 14th. The Blues have just five points after six games; in their previous 14 home league games, they have only managed two victories and 11 goals.
Added difficulties for Pochettino
The only victories that Chelsea has experienced in its seven games under Pochettino have come against Luton and AFC Wimbledon, and the injured Blues will be regretting their bad luck after suffering a second straight home loss.
Villa’s victory was somewhat lucky since Levi Colwill did a fantastic job of stopping Watkins’ original shot, but the ball kindly ricocheted for the striker to sneak home a lovely finish on the second try. The Blues’ perception that not much was going their way was aggravated by an Axel Disasi header that was just barely disallowed for offside at the end of the first half.
While the Blues’ finishing once again fell short, Gusto’s red-card challenge was not intentional but was poorly timed and was going to be upgraded from yellow when the video assistance referee interfered.
The one-on-one battles Martinez had with Jackson, Sterling, and later replacement Ben Chilwell were won admirably, but Chelsea ought to have scored on at least one of those opportunities.
Pochettino stated, “We are confident in the way we play; the only thing we are lacking is scoring, and if we keep working hard, we will change. I’m disappointed, not angry. Up until the red card, I believe we were the superior squad.”
However, Jackson will now join the suspended Gusto on the sidelines for Chelsea’s next game after receiving a fifth booking in only six games, adding to the head coach’s difficulties with over a dozen players out injured.
Watkins is back on the hunt for points
Villa continues to appear to be a club on the rise under Unai Emery, while Chelsea is experiencing their worst start to a season in eight years, since Jose Mourinho’s disastrous last season at Stamford Bridge.
While it is true that they sat back for the majority of the first half and relied on Martinez’s brilliance to hold Chelsea at bay, Villa also made their opportunities and truly seized the lead after Gusto was sent off.
The victory came as a comfort to Watkins, who had scored only once in his previous 12 league appearances following a shock Europa League loss at Legia Warsaw in midweek.
However, the English forward had scored 11 goals in the 12 games before that, and Villa is hoping his stellar performance today may ignite another round of prolific scoring. A clean sheet earned thanks to Martinez’s brilliance and some excellent last-ditch defence, will be welcomed by Emery as well ahead of Brighton’s visit to Villa Park on Saturday. This has been their primary problem, especially on the road, where they have conceded five at Newcastle and three each at Liverpool and Warsaw.
“The clean sheet was very important because we conceded a lot of goals away. It was important to win through a clean sheet,” the Villa boss said. “We needed to find a way where we were stronger than we were against Newcastle and Liverpool. Today was tough but we competed very well.”