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Premier League

  • December 31, 2011
  • • 10:00 AM
  • • Stamford Bridge, London
  • Referee: M. Halsey
  • • Attendance: 41332
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Chelsea 1-3 Aston Villa: Ireland, Petrov and Bent strikes stun Villas-Boas' men as Blues make it four games without a win

Alex McLeish's side produced a masterclass of counter-attacking soccer to cancel out Didier Drogba's opener and consign Andre Villas-Boas' men to a miserable end to 2011

Chelsea failed to win for the fourth Premier League game in a row as it slumped to a 3-1 defeat at home to Aston Villa.

Didier Drogba scored the opener for his side from the spot before Stephen Ireland bundled home to send the sides in level at halftime.

Despite the second-half introduction of Fernando Torres, the Blues could not find the breakthrough and they saw Stiliyan Petrov and substitute Darren Bent heap more misery on them with late goals which gave Alex McLeish's side the win.

Given the cagey nature of the opening 20 minutes, the breakthrough for the hosts may have felt like sweet relief for Andre Villas-Boas, especially given the fortunate nature in which it was seized. Drogba collected the ball in the box after Ramires’ burst from midfield and shifted it into an area of little threat only to see Richard Dunne clumsily throw out a leg and give the forward an opportunity to tumble, which he duly took.

The Ivorian subsequently stepped up and slotted a nervous spot kick down the middle, one which Guzan will have been disappointed not to stop, to notch his 150th Chelsea goal and give his side lead.

The goal did little, however, to dispel Chelsea’s stuttering start and it was therefore unsurprising when the visitors hit back just five minutes later. Charles N’Zogbia burst into the box, after being released by Ireland who had controlled brilliantly, and the winger cut back to his provider to see him slide the ball beyond Cech after it appeared that John Terry’s arm had prevented his first goalward effort.

The goal was little more than Alex McLeish’s side deserved given its clear counterattacking potency and it continued to suppress the Chelsea attack and break with pace at every subsequent opportunity.

Despite that threat, Chelsea will have been disappointed not to immediately regain the lead with 10 minutes of the half remaining as Guzan’s tame block on a cross allowed Mata to release a shot at an empty goal which Stephen Warnock did brilliantly to slide in and stop.

The Blues then received a let off after the break as a fantastic exchange between Charles N’Zogbia and Ireland allowed the visitors to break from the edge of their box in seconds and release Agbonlahor one-on-one with Cech. Unfortunately for the Villans, the pacy striker could not provide the finishing touch and drove into the goalkeeper’s legs, much to the relief of the home crowd.

Mata was proving to be the hosts’ only true creative outlet on the day and he underlined this status by beating two Villa defenders in the box before standing the ball up to the back post. Though, as had been the theme of the match up to that point, no Chelsea forward could provide the fitting finish to his good work.

FernandoTorres replaced the ineffective Sturridge on the hour mark. The Spain international has without doubt endured a frustrating 2011 at Stamford Bridge but he almost went some way to atoning for his poor form as his fantastic drive from the edge of the box crashed off the Villa bar just seconds after his introduction.

It was a defensive change by Chelsea which almost proved key with 15 minutes remaining as Bosingwa, who had missed out on a start due to hamstring concerns, replaced Ferreira and brought a fine save from Guzan just moments into his cameo.

It took just minutes for substitute Darren Bent to have an impact, with his great work in beating Terry almost garnering a penalty, only for the referee to wave away his claims and those of Stiliyan Petrov just moments later after another debatable tackle in the box.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of those decisions, Villa would get what it perceived as justice just seconds later as Ciaran Clark found captain Petrov in space in a disorganized Chelsea defense and the midfielder drove home brilliantly to give his side the lead.

Just minutes later, Villa put the game beyond all doubt. Ireland, who had proved brilliant throughout his return to the first team, intercepted Terry’s loose pass across defense to find himself through on goal and he unselfishly passed to the supporting Bent who forced the ball past Cech to seal the points for the visitors.

That goal was to provide sufficient breathing space for Villa and ensured it consigned Chelsea to a miserable end to 2011.

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