Aston Villa 1-1 Chelsea  (Sky Sports)

Villa Park Return Hit By Lampard

Frank Lampard  


Aston Villa  v Chelsea
Merson 28   Lampard 64
FA Barclaycard Premiership



Alex Sharratt reports

A Frank Lampard equaliser spoilt Graham Taylor's return to the Villa Park touchline as both sides extended their unbeaten Premiership runs with a draw.

Paul Merson had got Taylor's second spell as Villa manager off to a superb start when he stabbed home in the 28th minute after excellent work in the penalty box by Darius Vassell.

But Chelsea - who have come from behind to win their last two matches - once again demonstrated a new-found resolve, with Lampard benefiting from an unselfish header from Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink to score from close range.

And the home side were indebted to Peter Enckelman's fabulous reflex save from Mikael Forsell in the final moments as Chelsea pressed for a fifth consecutive Premiership victory.

Both sides will feel aggreived to have only take a single point from an absorbing contest, though Chelsea - chasing a Champions League spot - perhaps deserved victory more than Villa.

Taylor - who received a standing ovation from 30,000 Villa fans at the start of the match - watched his side take the lead when Vassell turned smartly in the box to prod the ball to Merson, who reacted quicker than the Chelsea defence to deflect the ball in to the top corner.

Eidur Gudjohnsen had two excellent chances late in the half to equalise, the best a one-on-one after being released by Mario Stanic before his control let him down.

Claudio Ranieri's men were much sharper in the second period, with substitute Gianfranco Zola predictably providing a creative spark to their approach.

And the little Italian had a major hand in the equaliser - his lofted pass was headed down by Hasselbaink to present England-hopeful Lampard with an open goal eight yards out.

Perhaps encouraged by the fighting victory in the cup in midweek, Chelsea went in search of a winning goal in a pulsating final half-an-hour.

And it was only Enckelman - playing in his third successive match following Peter Schmeichel's shoulder injury - who denied the London club with his stunning final-minute save.

Hasselbaink - who had shot wide from a tight angle just moments before - held the ball up before flicking a neat pass to Forsell just six yards out, but Enckelman was quick off his line to block the Fin's snap-shot.

Aston Villa: Enckelman, Delaney, Mellberg (Barry 45), Staunton, Samuel, Hadji, Hendrie (Stone 57), Boateng, Merson, Vassell (Dublin 87), Angel.
Subs Not Used: Myhill, Balaban.
Booked: Samuel.

Cudicini, Ferrer (Zola 63), Desailly, Terry (Keenan 76), Le Saux, Dalla Bona, Petit, Lampard, Stanic, Gudjohnsen (Forssell 63), Hasselbaink.
Subs Not Used: de Goey, Jokanovic.
Booked: Dalla Bona.

Ref: P Durkin (Dorset).

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