For a game that should have had some pretty significant meaning to this Chelsea squad, you certainly couldn't tell by the way they performed. The Blues played the entire first half like a team that was focused on adding a Europa League title to Rafa Benitez's CV on Wednesday, and couldn't give a damn if they won today's game or not. They were deservingly down 1-0 at the break with a Chelsea player sent off, and it probably could have been worse.
Trailing by a goal, Rafa sent David Luiz on for Victor Moses at the start of the second half, and Aston Villa continued to dominate the game. Luckily though, Benteke got himself sent off at the hour mark and gave Chelsea a bit of a lifeline. Frank Lampard then tied Bobby Tambling to give Chelsea fans hope.
Minutes later, Chelsea probably would have been ahead if goal-line technology was currently in the game. Demba Ba poked home a Gary Cahill shot, and it appeared to have been all the way over the line. SInce we still have to rely on the officials though, it remained 1-1.
In the end, the poor call just served to enhance the drama at Villa Park. Frank Lampard made sure to find the back of the net a 2nd time, passing Bobby Tambling and becoming Chelsea's all-tie leading scorer. That goal ended the scoring and assured Chelsea will finish in the top 4, and was the absolutely perfect way for a legend to write himself into the history books.
- For the first time in a few matches, I don't think I was particularly pleased with the lineup Rafa selected. He chose to rest what appears to be his first choice center back pairing against a side that's been scoring for fun, and did so on a day in which John Obi Mikel was not available in the midfield. Brilliant Rafa, just brilliant.
- This Chelsea team is just awful at taking throws. They might as well just give the throws to the other team directly, and get back to work trying to win the ball. Their current approach to them is effectively the same thing anyway.
- Another thing Chelsea tend to do far too often is sit on the ball after receiving it. We were far too slow in moving the ball to ever really threaten Villa in the first half.
- I'm still pretty confused by Rafa's substitutions. Trailing by a goal at halftime, we put on a CB out of position in place of an attacker. We then manage to draw level before seeing John Terry injured, and need another goal when he has to come off. The sensible move is slide Luiz to his natural position here, and put on another attacker. Rafa's move? Put on Branislav Ivanovic. Brilliant.
- Frank Lampard is the man. What else is there to say? He scores #202 and #203 when we needed them most. The 3 points today ensure that the best Tottenham can do is finish level with us on points. Chelsea currently have a 17 goal advantage in differential with just a week left to go. While it's mathematically possible to miss out on the Champions League, that gap is now totally insurmountable. Thanks Frank, you're the man.