Aston Villa player ratings gallery vs Chelsea: One ‘hero’ scores 9/10 and four earn 8s in ‘feisty’ victory
Player ratings and match report from Aston Villa’s narrow 1-0 Premier League victory against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Aston Villa soared into the Premier League top six with a feisty 1-0 win over 10-man Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon. The hosts were in control for much of the first half and the start of the second but a red card brandished to Malo Gusto after a lengthy VAR check changed the direction of the clash. Buoyed by the sending off, Unai Emery’s side applied plenty of pressure and eventually scored through Ollie Watkins to claim a vital three points on the road.
Chelsea edged the opening quarter of an hour or so but were only able to create a single half chance in that period. Record signing Moises Caicedo managed to register the first shot on target as he struck from around 25 yards but it didn’t cause any trouble for Emiliano Martinez. Much of the danger from the hosts came down the flanks with Raheem Sterling, Nicolas Jackson and Mykhailo Mudryk finding pockets of space in behind but Villa were assured enough to deal with the threat.
Lucas Digne was the man who had the first opportunity for the visitors and he very nearly stunned the entire stadium with a remarkable effort. The Frenchman, waiting on the edge of the area for a corner, was in the right place as the ball looped over and he struck it first time on the volley with immense power. Unfortunately for Villa, however, Robert Sanchez did well to tip it over the bar. Martinez then had a save of his own to make at the other end as he rushed out and denied Jackson one-on-one.
Emery was definitely the more active of the two managers on the touchline in the first half as he barked instructions and passionately expressed his discontent at a mix of refereeing decisions and cheap giveaways in midfield. The head coach showed great delight at one moment from Matty Cash, though, as the right-back sprinted back and headed the ball safely away from Jackson and onto Martinez. Emery celebrated the defensive action as if it were a goal scored, pumping his fists in the air.
Chelsea had a brilliant chance to take the lead in the 35th minute as Gusto got beyond Digne and cut the ball back to Enzo Fernandez. The Argentine midfielder went for placement rather than power but couldn’t quite get his shot on target. Villa then went even closer to breaking the deadlock as summer loan signing Nicolo Zaniolo fired a venomous volley from a Boubacar Kamara nod-down. The Italian hit it so sweetly but Sanchez was there to save the Blues once again.
Axel Disasi thought he’d made it 1-0 for the Blues just before the interval as he headed home from a Sterling cross but the defender was very clearly offside. Sterling then got involved in an accidental confrontation with Digne, catching the full-back with his elbow and causing blood to run from his face. The home support was furious as referee Jarred Gillett halted the play to allow Villa’s medical staff to assess Digne and quickly bring a close to the half.
The second period began in the favour of Mauricio Pochettino’s side as Sterling had an early opportunity. Going route one, Sterling latched onto a long pass and dribbled toward goal but Martinez did superbly to smother the attacker’s advances. Yet another opening - one very similar to the previous - fell to Chelsea’s number seven just a few minutes later but Martinez got down excellently to block.
Stamford Bridge’s atmosphere turned sour in an instant just ahead of the hour mark as the referee was urged by VAR to take a second look at a reckless Gusto challenge. The right-back slid in on Digne with just one foot raised but the force and height of his boot were enough for Gillett to judge the tackle as serious foul play. Gusto’s yellow card was changed from yellow to red and both ends of the ground erupted with contrasting emotions.
Villa, who had struggled to get a foothold in the game beforehand, quickly surged in the ascendency as they gained belief against ten men. They weren’t exactly peppering Chelsea’s goal but all that was needed was one clear opening for Watkins. The striker had been vacant for most of the game but he came up trumps when it mattered, taking a Moussa Diaby pass into his stride. His first effort was saved by Sanchez but the rebound was converted cleverly off the post to send the Villa support into raptures.
Emery’s men went close to scoring a second goal on two occasions but were denied by a confident Sanchez between the sticks. Diaby ran through one-on-one but saw his shot saved at the near post before Jacob Ramsey attempted to curl one in from the edge of the area but Sanchez dived across. Villa had to absorb some late pressure from Chelsea - including an effort from Cole Palmer during 11 minutes of added time - but were able to hold on for a second successive win at Stamford Bridge. Here are our player ratings.