Aston Villa and the old annoyance

Dave Woodhall watches Villa draw at home to Chelsea.

The 19:30 from New Street to Witton was cancelled at 19:40. The next train going anywhere in the vicinity of Villa Park was the Cross City stopping at Aston. I’m beyond running anywhere so while I was walking past the church there was a strange roar from the ground. It was too quiet to be a Villa goal, too loud to be a Chelsea one and there was no annoucement of a scorer so I did wonder what had happened until I finally got inside and saw that Villa were one up thanks to an own goal. John McGinn’s shot had been deflected into the net to give Villa the perfect start to one of the most important games we’ve played at Villa Park in decades. So far, so good, particularly after Chelsea’s poor form this season.

Unai Emery had brought Douglas Luiz back after suspension but he looked well off the pace as the visitors took control of the game and began to worry Villa’s defence. They put the ball in the net but it was given offside after a worryingly lengthy VAR check and then hit the post.

And then, with three minutes until half-time a lovely sweeping move started with Emiliano Martinez and ended with Matty Cash laying the ball off for Morgan Rogers to get his third goal for the Villa. It’s easy to get excited about a young talent but in three months Rogers has gone from a promising Championship player to one of the stars of a top four side. You can’t get much more meteoric than that.

Two up at half-time despite not playing well and surely the boss would sort things out during the break. Unfortunately it didn’t work like that and Villa began the second half much as they’d played throughout the first. Youri Tielemans had gone off injured by this time, to no real surpise because if there’s one thing that’s more certain than a Villa player getting injured this season it’s one getting injured just when he’s hit form.

Tielemans’ absence weakened the midfield even further while Emiliano Martinez not coming out for the second half had weakened the whole team. Robin Olsen comes in for some stick and a lot of it might not be justified but he’s not as good as Martinez, which is no critiism of him because neither is any other keeper in the world and the sight of him in goal must have encouraged Chelsea.

Some unnecessary messing around by the Villa defence gave Chelsea a goal after an hour and although a goalmouth scramble could have made the score 3-1, the visitors started to dominate the longer the game went on. The introductions of Diego Carlos and Tim Iroegbanum were presumably intended to put some more bite into midfied, while Douglas Luiz likely went off to prevent him getting a second yellow card. A series of free-kicks around the Villa penalty area, not all of them entirely justified, caused problems whle sitting back led to the equaliser.

It looked as though Villa had held onto a point/thrown away two then deep into stoppage time there was more drama as Chelsea got what they thought was a winner but the quickest glance at VAR showed was a foul.

2-2 it finished and while it was annoying to lose a two-goal lead yet again, those injuries had a massive effect as the game went on. We didn’t lose, we’re seven points clear of Spurs and as Sunday afternoon approaches, come on Arsenal.