Premiership: Chelsea 1 – 1 Aston Villa

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Match reports

The Observer, Amy Lawrence: “Just for a moment as this compelling battle of wits was intensifying towards the top end of the footballing pressure gauge, Jose Mourinho and Martin O’Neill glared at each other like raging bulls. These two winners suddenly changed tack and fell into an embrace. They might have felt ill will in the past, notably when they locked horns at the Uefa Cup final three years ago. But they now regard each other with respect.”

Sunday Telegraph, Roy Collins: “Chelsea are still struggling to be the well-oiled machine that rolled all opposition into the ground, especially at home, to win the last two Premier League titles. But this was still a very impressive result for Aston Villa boss Martin O’Neill, only the seventh manager to claim a point at Stamford Bridge during two unbeaten years under Jose Mourinho.”

The Times, Tom Dart: “Mourinho has also often said that Chelsea will improve, but it would be better for the division as a whole if they stayed as they are. Where they were dull, now there is excitement; where they were predictable, now there is uncertainty – albeit just a little.”

Independent on Sunday, Steve Tongue: “It was a thrilling game as the visitors grew in confidence following the setback of conceding a scrappy goal in the third minute. The speedy teenager, Gabriel Agbonlahor, equalised before half-time and Martin O’Neill’s team stood strong at the back against an onslaught in the second half. With Olof Mellberg outstanding at centre-half and Thomas Sorensen equally difficult to find a way past after the goal, they broke with guile, supplied by Stilian Petrov and Steven Davis, and pace.”

Sunday Times, Joe Lovejoy: “In the second half, Sorensen atoned in part for his early error with some useful saves and, in search of the breakthrough, Mourinho sent on Wright-Phillips and Salomon Kalou. Robben, unhappy at being withdrawn, sprinted straight down the tunnel, and did not see his replacement vindicate the manager’s decision within two minutes by shooting against the crossbar.”

BBC Sport, Caroline Cheese: “It was a frustrating afternoon for the champions, for whom Andriy Shevchenko is still without a goal since the second game of the season.”

The good

  1. Didier Drogba. Eight goals in nine games. Extrapolated over the remainder of the season that’s… a great deal of goals. Andriy Shevchenko could do with a helping of the good fortune that has befallen the big Ivorian on occasions. Personally, I thought Shevchenko had a good second half and was surprised to hear Match of the Day‘s Alan Hansen criticise him. “I keep on hearing and reading that he’s going to get better and in time he will score goals. I’m not so sure,” he said. Hansen’s “You’ll never win anything with kids” faux-pas springs to mind.
  2. The second half performance. Despite Villa threatening to score on the break on a number of occasions, they were pummelled for extended periods. Over the 90 minutes Chelsea had 18 shots at goal, 10 on target. Thomas Sorensen put in one of those heroic performances that all goalkeepers have in them: the increasingly inept Graham Poll could have played 90 minutes added time and the Dane would not have conceded another goal. There was little sign of the Sorensen who’s capable of throwing the ball into his own net.
  3. The mutual respect between Jose Mourinho and Martin O’Neill. Despite appearing close to conflict on a number of occasions, both managers were respectful of each other after the final whistle. A refreshing change and good to see.
  4. The draw. As Mourinho said in his post match interview, these types of game usually end in undeserved defeat. If Villa’s Juan Pablo Angel had been more composed a minute from the final whistle, then that would have been the case.

The bad

  1. The draw. Dropping two points after such a dominant performance hurts. Villa managed to do what only Charlton Athletic managed during the whole of last season: to leave Stamford Bridge with a point. The 48 game unbeaten run at the Bridge remains intact though.
  2. The inability to put the game beyond Villa. Back-to-back Premiership champions score at home in the third minute – is it too much to expect at least a couple more goals? Chelsea have taken an early lead in three Premiership games this season only to concede an equaliser: against Middlesbrough (lost 2-1); Charlton (won 2-1); and now Villa. As the first half progressed it seemed inevitable they would equalise. A worrying trend that needs addressing.
  3. Wayne Bridge’s absence. Bridge is in the form of his life yet didn’t even make the squad. Reports suggest he was angry at being left out after his great performance in the Champions League victory over Levski Sofia. He probably would have fared little better than Ashley Cole did against Villa’s Gabriel Agbonlahor, but on current form he offers so much more going forward – although Cole did reasonably well in that department. It’s unsurprising that rumours linking him with a move away from the Bridge in January have started in earnest.
  4. For the second Premiership game running, Frank Lampard put in a performance that gives credence to those who say he’s better without Michael Ballack stealing his thunder. Another worrying trend.
  5. Graham Poll. Enough said.

Man of the Match

Didier Drogba. Or Michael Essien. I can’t decide.

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