Aston Villa 0 Chelsea 1: Anelka ushers in new era with a winner that jolts Villa fans

22 February 2009 10:41
In the end, fans were leaving Villa Park as the fourth official raised the board that indicated four more minutes to be played. That, in itself, told its own damning story.

This corner of Birmingham had been full of excitement a few hours previously, anticipation that has perhaps not been felt since Ron Atkinson's team chased Manchester United

down to the first Premier League title.

Yet, even with the score standing at 1-0, it seemed pointless for many to stay. Having surveyed the previous 90 minutes, it was clear there was not to be a late rally.



Men in black: Nicolas Anelka celebrates his goal with his team-mates

 Aston Villa v Chelsea: How the game unfolded

ASTON VILLA NEWS FROM ACROSS THE WEB

CHELSEA NEWS FROM ACROSS THE WEB

Arsenal 0 Sunderland 0

Bolton 2 West Ham 1

Middlesbrough 0 Wigan 0

Stoke 2 Portsmouth 2

Manchester United 2 Blackburn 1



Potentially, it had been a historic day for the club. Victory would have been a huge step towards Villa qualifying for the Champions League and breaking up the cosy foursome that dominates the game.

Chelsea

, under new management, should have been vulnerable, but yesterday was merely a re-establishment of the old order.

Villa

are made in England, both in personnel and style, and how it showed. In fact, it was rather like watching one of those dreary England games, when they try to break down more intelligent and technical foreign opposition with long balls, crosses and set-pieces.

New era: Guus Hiddink in the Villa Park dugout

But Ashley Young is no David Beckham. Then again, Emile Heskey was no, well, Emile Heskey. 'We've all been around too long to draws lots on conclusions from one game,' argued Martin O'Neill.

'Sometimes you can read an incredible amount into a game just because of a result. I don't see it. I see it as a setback and disappointment.

'If I want to take a positive, it's Jose Bosingwa taking about four days to take a throw in with half an hour to go. I don't mind in the last few minutes. I've done it myself. But with half an hour left! I drew some small comfort from that.

'We're not a long way away. There is absolutely no dent in belief. Absolutely not! We thought we could win today, at half-time we thought we could. We were beaten on the day, but we are still in there.'



Carlos the tackle: Nicolas Anelka and Carlos Cuellar battle for the ball

Still, Guus Hiddink's Chelsea side played the part of the continental sophisticates extremely well. There were few innovations in formation and personnel, but the team looked more disciplined in midfield, less porous in defence and more potent up front, with Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka both on the pitch. That said, a better side might have exposed the deficiencies of Alex and Paulo Ferreira.

In short, Hiddink could pronounce himself pleased, announce that Frank Lampard was a 'good lad' as well as a great player, yet concede that there might need to be some improvement to beat Juventus this week.

'I'm very satisfied with the result, especially as we were coming here with Villa setting records at the moment. In the first half we could be very pleased, we had a good attacking way of football and were rather dominant,' said Hiddink. 'The only critical thing is that we did not finish it off. In the second half we were a little bit static in possession.

'We forgot to move when we had the ball, so we can improve a little bit, but we are satisfied to get this game in our pocket.'

I don't believe it: Martin O'Neill shows his frustration on the touchline

Hiddink claims that he sees no evidence of the personality clashes in the Chelsea team but nevertheless spent his first week reminding his players of the professionalism that is required from them.

'We asked them, "Why are you in a big club?",' he said. 'But I didn't have to push them towards that attitude, they were there already.

'How long will it take to get them back to their potential? I would like to do it in three or four days. When you are playing top football you have to be intelligent as a player, and open-minded and this week we have worked very well.

'I was surprised, because there were these rumours about divisions but I was pleased with the attitude.' Principally he was pleased with Anelka and Lampard, who contrived to win the match with a superb combination of passing and finishing in the 19th minute.

Lampard won the ball in midfield and, as Curtis Davies over committed himself in defence, he slid a delightful ball through for Anelka, who simply guided it home to take his tally to 21 for the season. 'I have been an opponent of Lampard on a few occasions and was always frightened of his performance,' said Hiddink.

'He was impressive how he prepared this goal. He's a very good lad, as they say here.' It was not that Villa did not have chances. Ashley Young's superb free-kick on 34 minutes hit the underside of the bar and spun back as goalkeeper Petr Cech stood rooted to his line.

Me and my shadow: Frank Lampard and Stiliyan Petrov

Gabriel Agbonlahor's pace and power rushed Alex into a mistake on 54 minutes and took the England man into a one-on-one with Cech, but the Chelsea keeper pulled off a smart save.

And had Heskey pulled the ball back with greater accuracy after 69 minutes, Agbonlahor would surely have scored.

Yet, there were as many occasions when Brad Friedel had to rescue his team-mates, not least from John Terry's header in the first half and Michael Ballack's shot after 90 minutes.

For, in reality, the home supporters who left to beat the jams had it right. Villa are not in this class just yet.

 Aston Villa v Chelsea: How the game unfolded

ASTON VILLA NEWS FROM ACROSS THE WEB

CHELSEA NEWS FROM ACROSS THE WEB

Arsenal 0 Sunderland 0

Bolton 2 West Ham 1

Middlesbrough 0 Wigan 0

Stoke 2 Portsmouth 2

Manchester United 2 Blackburn 1





 

Source: Daily_Mail