Chelsea 1  Aston Villa 3  (Sky Sports)

Villa's Vassell Marks England Call In Style

Darius Vassell
Vassell: vital second


Chelsea  1-3 Aston Villa
Gudjohnsen (pen) 69   Crouch 21
Vassell 63
Dublin 88
FA Barclaycard Premiership

Darius Vassell celebrated his inclusion in England's World Cup squad by cracking home a spectacular volley to help Villa to only their third win since February.

The striker buried a second-half Steve Stone cross in between Peter Crouch's precise and a late opportunist strike by Dion Dublin as the Villains' ended their wretched run on the road.

Chelsea, who fought hard to recover from last week's FA Cup Final defeat, had only a 69th Eidur Gudjohnsen penalty to show for their efforts and were left deflated once more.

The initial initiative rested with Villa. Chelsea goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini had already tipped away a goalbound Crouch header by the time the striker opened the scoring on 21 minutes with a trademark finish.

Stone lofted a corner high into the Chelsea box where no-one could impede Crouch's towering header. Chelsea, without injured Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, roused themselves and should have drawn level within five minutes as teenager Carlton Cole miscued a free header on his home debut.

Clean-through Mario Melchiot struck his shot against Enckelman's legs, Cole swivelled but fired straight at the goalkeeper and Zola saw a venomous shot tipped away. The frustrating spell epitomised Chelsea's season.

Blues boss Claudio Ranieri dug deep at half-time bringing on Eidur Gudjohnsen for Gronkjaer, Sam Dalla Bona for Boudewijn Zenden and 17-year-old Robert Huth to make his debut in place of Graeme le Saux. Villa replaced German Thomas Hitzlsperger with Lee Hendrie.

Cole and Lampard combined in the 58th minute, only for the striker to push his eight-yard shot against Enckelman's legs.

Villa extended their lead shortly after Mark Delaney had spurned a clear-cut chance as Vassell raced onto a swirling Stone cross at the far post and lashed a left-foot volley past Cudicini.

Chelsea got back into the game courtesy of a 70th minute penalty when Villa full-back Delaney appeared to pull back Dalla Bona as the Blues midfielder attempted to wriggle through a crowded area.

Referee Bennett pointed to the spot and Gudjohnsen stepped up to smash a left-foot shot past Enckelman. It was more than Chelsea deserved.

Villa boss GrahamTaylor threw on Dion Dublin for the last six minutes and he soon made his presence felt, rising to prod home a close-range header with just two minutes remaining.

Vassell remained the focal point of interest though, and his livewire form may yet prove the talking point of the world football.

MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Peter Enckleman (Aston Villa)
The goalkeeper was run close by livewire Darius Vassell, but without his first-half saves Chelsea could have been out of sight by half-time.

Chelsea: Cudicini, Melchiot, Terry, Gallas, Le Saux (Gudjohnsen 45), Gronkjaer (Huth 45), Petit, Lampard, Zenden (Dalla Bona 45), Zola, Cole.
Subs Not Used: de Goey, Stanic.

Aston Villa: Enckelman, Delaney, Staunton, Mellberg, Wright, Stone, Boateng, Hitzlsperger (Hendrie 53), Barry, Vassell (Dublin 84), Crouch (Angel 88).
Subs Not Used: Hadji, Henderson.
Booked: Hitzlsperger.
Att: 40,709
Ref: S Bennett (Kent)

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