Chelsea have been on a roll of late, but a combination of some very good defending and an incompetent referee resulted in Chelsea making the trip back to London without any points this weekend.
Chelsea were easily the better side during the first half of this one, but Aston Villa did just enough to assure the game went into the break scoreless. Villa ran their usual offside trap while looking to counter, and while they didn't create any opportunities of note, they managed to disrupt Chelsea's timing just enough to keep them from getting free on Brad Guzan. The Blues did manage to put the ball into the back of the net from a corner, but the Nemanja Matic goal was waved off for an inadvertent bicep before the midfielder poked the ball home.
Jose Mourinho didn't change the personnel to start the second half, but seemed to tweak our approach a bit. One of Oscar or Eden Hazard were always joining Fernando Torres looking to get free behind the back four, with one of the midfielders or fullbacks typically pushing further forward to help find the pass to release them.
Midway through the second 45 minutes, Chelsea still hadn't found a way through the Villa defense. Mourinho decided to take Oscar and Torres off for Andre Schurrle and Demba Ba, but seconds later the Blues were down to ten when Willian saw a second yellow. Unfortunately, it looks to be one of the softest yellow cards in the history of the sport, but to expect Chris Foy to referee for 90 minutes without [fun]ing something up is probably far too much to hope for.
Villa began to push after they were gifted a man advantage, and naturally Fabian Delph slotted home a very nice finish to put the home side ahead. That would be the defining moment of the day, but a deserved Ramires red card would manage to cap off a massively disappointing loss.
- I liked the lineup Mourinho selected today, as he's obviously not taking the Premier League lightly. After the past two managers have clearly prioritized the cups over the league, it's a very refreshing change.
- Torres has been so bad for so long that I literally groan every time a ball is played into his general vicinity. It's likely reached the point where he's not nearly as bad as I'm envisioning, but I just can't wait for Chelsea to get rid of him so I can have a clean slate with his replacement.
- While I enjoy the fact that Mourinho has been pushing for more recognition for Hazard's excellent play, he wouldn't even be my first choice as Chelsea's best player recently. It hasn't taken very long for Matic to become the most dominant midfielder in England, freeing up whoever he's partnered with to jump into the attack more often.
- This gets said after basically every match Chris Foy does, but he's a truly awful referee. It's hard to believe that there is such a shortage of competent officials in England that Foy remains employed.
- Kudos to the Aston Villa defense, who did a tremendous job with the offside trap today. That's a very dangerous tactic to employ against a side with the quality Chelsea have, and one or two mistakes can result in a very ugly scoreline (see Hotspur, Tottenham).
- I have a hard time believing that Willian won't have his suspension for that red card lifted by the FA. England's governing body isn't particularly well known for making sensible decisions, but I just can't imagine even the FA could try to justify that second yellow.
- While Willian's red card was an absolute joke, Ramires deserves every minute of his forthcoming three match ban. What an idiotic challenge to make.
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