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West Bromwich Albion
West Ham United
31 March 2012
• Villa Park, Birmingham
Referee: L. Mason
• Attendance: 34740
J. Collins 77'
E. Lichaj 80'
D. Sturridge 9'
B. Ivanović 51', 83'
Fernando Torres 90'+
What a thrilling game, and let me tell you, it's been happening everywhere. There have been goals everywhere - hurry back to the Goal.com home page to find it all out. I've been George Ankers - thanks for joining me this afternoon.
That's it - a breathless, frenetic second half finishes Aston Villa 2-4 Chelsea. For most of the match, the visitors were totally on top and in cruise control but were given an almighty shock when their own lax defending threatened to derail the whole thing. An emotional Villa gave it everything at the end to try to find that comeback for Stilian Petrov, but quality just about saw through in the end.
90' + 4'
90' + 2'
Assist Daniel Sturridge
90' + 2'
Goal Fernando Torres
GOAL! THAT'S IT, AND IT'S TORRES! The Spaniard finally gets his league goal and Villa are finally done for. Chelsea counter and Villa have hardly anyone back. Sturridge is in the middle and he slides it towards Torres on the right, who produces a finish of the Torres of old, slicing it coolly past his marker and Shay Given to seal the deal.
90' + 1'
Marc Albrighton is causing all sorts of problems but John Terry is equally good. He stands firm to head the ball away twice with real authority from the back. It's all Villa.
90' + 1'
This kind of late-goals insanity is happening all over the Premier League, by the way. More at full-time.
Big free-kick chance for Aston Villa just right of centre ... Barry Bannan curls it into the arms of Petr Cech! Needed more incision than that. Four minutes to come.
Marc Albrighton has been the spark for Aston Villa since he came on. He's the one carving out the crosses as we approach stoppage time.
The home fans are getting annoyed at perceived timewasting from Ashley Cole taking a throw-in, but it's entirely understandable from Chelsea. They need this over before the latest Aston Villa rally brings any more surprises - like James Collins nearly does as he stretches in vain for a header.
Ramires is not helping by giving the ball away to Eric Lichaj as Aston Villa are throwing the kitchen sink at Chelsea. Multiple crosses come across the box - some headed out, some simply left as nobody reaches them. This could end any way yet.
Substitute Emile Heskey draws a simple save from Petr Cech at the far post with a weak header. This game has suddenly become very silly for both sides.
Assist Fernando Torres
Goal Branislav Ivanovic
GOAL! CHELSEA! Heartbreak for Villa? A game typified by awful defending at set-pieces gets another example. All the visitors' good work is undone as Fernando Torres is allowed to nod on Juan Mata's corner, and once again Branislav Ivanovic is free to punch home. Shameful defending.
Chelsea are paying the price for a failure to apply the killer blow, there's no doubt. They were taking their dominance for granted and just didn't put this Villa side down when they had the chance. Now slack defending and a great assist from Marc Albrighton have changed everything. Big finish.
Assist Marc Albrighton
Goal Eric Lichaj
GOAL! THEY'VE DONE IT! Out of absolutely nowhere, Aston Villa are level! The cross comes in from the left after it's sprayed out to Marc Albrighton. The winger comprehensively outfoxes Branislav Ivanovic and delivers to the far post - but where is Ashley Cole? Completely unaware of the threat on the right, the left-back does nothing to stop young Eric Lichaj tapping in! WOW!
That was very much against the run of play and it's all down to Chelsea's utter failure to pick up James Collins. The visitors should be out of sight by now - perhaps complacency had kicked in.
Assist Eric Lichaj
Goal James Collins
GOAL! ASTON VILLA ARE BACK IN IT! Eric Lichaj delivers a fabulous long throw from the right flank but once again James Collins is unmarked in the box. He jumps, heads, and it's in, all very simple. Roberto Di Matteo will not be pleased, but is this the springboard for a comeback?
Or is it? Florent Malouda has gone to a centre-forward position alongside Torres, while Daniel Sturridge, a man with well-known aspirations to such a role, is on the left wing. Hmm.
No rest for Fernando Torres after all, then - the imperious Juan Mata is the third and final Chelsea substitution, with Florent Malouda making his way onto the field in his place, a straightforward swap on the left.
Branislav Ivanovic angles a useful cross towards the middle of the box from the right wing and Fernando Torres shows good anticipation to get on the end of it - his header is poorly directed, though, and comes to nought.
Gary Cahill loses his boot and the home fans are not particularly happy when the referee pauses the game to allow him to sit in his penalty box to put it back on. Meanwhile, Marc Albrighton replaces Chris Herd as Alex McLeish searches for some kind of spark in the final third.
Fernando Torres is displaced in an advanced position by young Nathan Baker. He's not been as bright today as in recent games.
A boost for Chelsea from elsewhere - QPR have just gone 2-1 up against Arsenal. That could be important with the Champions League places remaining up for grabs. At Villa Park, though, the Blues have not created a great deal in recent minutes.
Chris Herd is a little fortunate not to have his name taken for a cynical kick at the feet of Juan Mata. It is, to be fair, the closest that any Villa player has got to the Spanish maestro this afternoon.
The game has been really stifled by that second Chelsea goal. Aston Villa had begun the half how they had ended the first before Ivanovic took the wind out of their sails.
Juan Mata stands over a free kick ... and loops it comfortably over Shay Given's bar. That's the sort of luxury shot you can try when you're in this position.
A forward is withdrawn but it's Salomon Kalou who comes off for Ramires. Perhaps Roberto Di Matteo is hoping that Fernando Torres can find a confidence-boosting goal against this leaky-looking back line before he gives him a rest.
Yellow Card Stephen Warnock
Stephen Warnock is booked - despite the protestations of, oddly, John Terry - as he very clearly dives recklessly into the feet of the centre-back. Terry gets out of the way to avoid contact, but the intention could not be clearer.
Chelsea look unhassled and Roberto Di Matteo might consider making more changes soon. With Didier Drogba suffering from an unspecified knock to his toe, Fernando Torres is the only out-and-out striker here, and he may be rested in advance of the Blues' Champions League second leg against Benfica. Ramires is imminently arriving, apparently ...
That is a big blow for Aston Villa and you wonder if there's any hope for them to come back into this match. The more serious concern might start to be Premier League survival ...
Assist Juan Mata
Goal Branislav Ivanovic
GOAL! IVANOVIC! Aston Villa are forced to concede a corner as Chelsea come forward for the first time this half, and it's another early sucker-punch! It is, truth be told, not a very dignifying goal to let in for Villa. Mata's corner is not dealt with, coming off Nathan Baker, it looks like, for Branislav Ivanovic right on top of goal. The Serb has no trouble putting it away.
Chelsea have confirmed that David Luiz has suffered an injury to his ankle. He's on the bench watching the game at the moment.
Villa make a concentrated effort to put the pressure on, passing it around on the edge of the Chelsea area with several men involved, before John Terry makes an important header to keep a cross away from the lurking Andreas Weimann.
Young American right-back Eric Lichaj, in his first Villa start since 2010, just about sees the ball out for a goal kick despite the attentions of Salomon Kalou.
Gary Cahill apparently spent half-time warming up on the pitch, having had to come on at very short notice to replace David Luiz.
We're back on at Villa Park.
So David Luiz - injured (as I first assumed) or tactically withdrawn (as Mr Stammers saw it)? We'll let you know as soon as we know either way.
Here's more from our man at Villa Park, John Stammers: "An eventful half at Villa Park ends with the visitors holding a 1-0 lead thanks to Daniel Sturridge. Chelsea look pretty comfortable but Aston Villa have had their fair share of chances, Gabriel Agbonlahor in particular looking menacing up against David Luiz, perhaps the reason why Roberto Di Matteo has decided to replace him with Gary Cahill. A good second-half to look forward to."
I'll fill you in the half-time scores elsewhere in the Premier League now. Everton 1-0 West Brom, Fulham 2-0 Norwich City, QPR 1-1 Arsenal, Wolves 0-0 Bolton, Wigan 0-0 Stoke City and Manchester City 1-2 Sunderland. Yes, really.
HALF-TIME! It's ASTON VILLA 0-1 CHELSEA. There could easily have been a few more goals in this game. Agbonlahor would have had one if it weren't for Petr Cech's great late save but, the last five minutes aside, the Blues have been very much in control and Fernando Torres - how often do we say this now? - could have had three already.
45' + 1'
45' + 1'
Cahill is immediately tested when Gabriel Agbonlahor is put through by an early Stephen Ireland pass from deep, though there's not much of an angle for the striker and there's no profit.
Whatever is wrong with David Luiz, it's bad enough that he has to come off straight away rather than wait a moment for half-time. The injured man is replaced by Gary Cahill, who faces his former side today.
Some real pressure from Villa now! Petr Cech shows his more vulnerable side by coming out to try to claim a ball that he shouldn't and the hosts get a corner. But here's a worrying sign for Chelsea ...
GREAT SAVE FROM PETR CECH! Aston Villa get their first chance in ages - at all? - as Barry Bannan is given too much space by Ashley Cole to control a chipped pass. The Scot lays it off to Gabby Agbonlahor next to him, who drives at goal, but the Czech keeper reacts brilliantly at finally being called into action to knock it over with his foot. Fantastic goalkeeping.
Salomon Kalou is judged to be offside as he moves forward on the left, seeking to add to his midweek goal against Benfica.
No question who's in charge at the moment. Chelsea are simply spraying it around, patiently and sedately, secure in the knowledge that more chances will come. Aston Villa will be desperate to get to half-time at 1-0.
Perhaps Fernando Torres thought that another man was coming in behind him to receive the ball - but, for my money, if you're a centre forward that is entirely your chance to be selfish, use the advantage of space, smell the opportunity, and do something with it. His build-up play is undoubtedly returning but the Spaniard is still some way short of his old self.
Fernando Torres goes missing at a crucial moment. Juan Mata, doing more of that confounding in the right of the box, gets free of his marker to stroke a great pass towards the striker on the edge of the area. He's wide open to control it and shoot ... but Torres fails to even notice the pass coming and it's beyond him before he does. Evidence of that striking instinct still being fundamentally missing, you might say.
Shay Given makes a save from Daniel Sturridge as the inside-forward approaches from the right flank, having been supplied by the mischievous Juan Mata, who is utterly confounding the Villa defence with his movement into space.
The corner kick goes straight out of play. Disappointing in the extreme from Villa.
Gabriel Agbonlahor drifts out wide on the left in search of some penetration but the Chelsea back line is standing strong - until David Luiz heads Stephen Warnock's quick cross out for a corner.
Chelsea are not outright dominating the game but are clearly aware that they can essentially break forward whenever they want. It already looks like a case of 'how many?', to be frank.
Aston Villa, feeling reprieved, have a chance from a free kick about 30 yards out, but Gary Gardner is punished for a shove just after it's taken, so nothing is able to come of it.
How is it not 2-0 to Chelsea? Juan Mata, Salomon Kalou and Fernando Torres all exchange some pinball passes on the edge of the area before Mata gets free on the left - he dinks it over Shay Given but the ball finds the post and rebounds softly into the area. Torres thinks he's in but Nathan Baker is in to hit it away.
I'm told that that corner was Villa's 172nd of the season - and that they have converted none of them into goals.
During the ovation, Aston Villa have a corner headed away but manage to force a second - and on this occasion James Collins is allowed a worrying amount of freedom to meet it on the penalty spot, though he heads over. Should Petr Cech have come for that?
The Villa Park crowd have risen as one in applause for Stilian Petrov. He is visibly moved by the outpouring of affection, standing to return the gesture to the fans - all of them, as the Chelsea supporters join in too.
Having that said, Chelsea do get forward on the right and the ball breaks to John Obi Mikel - the defensive midfielder tries for a rare strike but it's intercepted by more than one defender to lose its sting.
Chelsea, though, are clearly in control - you get the impression that they are operating on cruise control to an extent already - and they look quite happy to wait patiently for the right pass to come forward again. Villa are getting closer to their opponents' box but with no obvious way through.
Villa look to compose themselves and are enjoying a good spell of possession. Cool heads will be important.
Some hope for Aston Villa as Andreas Weimann flicks the ball forward towards Gabriel Agbonlahor, who just seems to be getting past his marker to shoot - but he's called offside. It looks marginal, but correct.
Aston Villa fans must have been hoping that their side would be able to hold out for longer if they are to have a chance of toppling this Chelsea side. They will now be worried that their skeleton squad could be exploited after that early goal.
Goal Daniel Sturridge
GOAL!! Chelsea have the lead! Salomon Kalou slips the ball to Juan Mata in the left half of the penalty area. The diminutive attacker takes Shay Given out of the equation by passing centrally as the goalkeeper comes towards him, and the only thing that stops Fernando Torres from tapping it in is an excellent last-ditch tackle by Stephen Warnock - but Daniel Sturridge gets hold of the rebound and buries it.
Another long through-ball forward - seemingly becoming a frequent feature of Chelsea's play these days - comes from Frank Lampard towards Salomon Kalou on the inside-left channel but his combination with Torres is not up to much and the chance goes.
Great chance for Fernando Torres! David Luiz moves slightly out of defence to aim an incisive through-ball from deep. The Spaniard runs on past Nathan Baker but can't pull the trigger.
An update on Didier Drogba's absence from Chelsea: "Drogba is absent with a knock in his toe - will be assessed before the Benfica match."
Aston Villa get forward down the left, Andreas Weimann using his pace to get down to the byeline, but his cross back in is aimless and a foul by Chris Herd surrenders their position.
There's a long ball forward for Villa from James Collins, which seems somewhat counterintuitive with such a short pair of strikers.
We're under way at Villa Park.
Goal.com's man at the ground today is John Stammers, and he sends this update: "Here at Villa Park we've had a very warm round of applause from the whole crowd for Stilian Petrov, who is in the stands. We've also heard a statement from the Bulgarian which ended with the line: "I'm sure I will beat this illness and I'm determined to do so." The teams are now out with the home side producing huge cheers for each of their players. Kick-off is imminent."
For Chelsea - you'll note that the word 'Drogba' was curiously absent from their team news. The only word so far is that the Ivory Coast international is "unavailable", so keep an eye on Goal.com for any more news there. Fernando Torres starts up top for the Blues, with Daniel Sturridge on the right wing - there's no out-and-out striker on the bench for Roberto Di Matteo.
Let's turn our focus back to the match, though. Gabriel Agbonlahor steps up to take the captain's armband for Aston Villa today, and there will be plenty of pressure on the forward to step up as he leads out an extraordinarily inexperienced home side. Young Andreas Weimann is up front with him, while Eric Lichaj makes his first start of the season at right-back and the youthful pair of Chris Herd and Gary Gardner make up the centre of midfield for Alex McLeish's men.
We understand that there will be a minute-long ovation from the crowd at the 19th minute of the game to show support, as Petrov wears the No.19 shirt. That is set to be a very emotional moment. The midfielder has been seen by television cameras in attendance today, and the Chelsea squad have been warming up in T-shirts saying "Our thoughts are with you" on the front, with "Petrov 19" on the back.
Of course, this match is overshadowed by the awful news from yesterday that Villa captain Stilian Petrov has been diagnosed with acute leukaemia. We're hearing reports that the Bulgarian is set to immediately retire from football to concentrate on beating the disease, and of course our thoughts are with him.
CHELSEA TEAM NEWS: Cech; Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry, Cole; Mikel, Lampard; Sturridge, Mata, Kalou; Torres. SUBS: Turnbull, Essien, Ramires, Malouda, Bosingwa, Cahill, Bertrand.
ASTON VILLA TEAM NEWS: Given; Lichaj, Collins, Baker, Warnock; Ireland, Gardner, Herd, Bannan; Weimann, Agbonlahor. SUBS: Guzan, Williams, Johnson, Grealish, Carruthers, Albrighton, Heskey.
Good afternoon and welcome to Goal.com's LIVE! play-by-play commentary of Aston Villa - Chelsea in the Premier League. I'm George Ankers, and I've got the team news coming right up.
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