Allback Dents Blues' Champions League Hopes  (Sky Sports)

Aston Villa 2 Chelsea 1

Marcus Allback
Allback: double
Aston Villa 2-1 Chelsea
Allback 11, 78   Terry 89
Premiership, Saturday, April 19

Marcus Allback put a season of frustration behind him with a two-goal blast which ended Aston Villa's fears of relegation and dealt a huge blow to the Champions League hopes of Claudio Ranieri's side.

The Swedish international kept his place despite 14-goal leading scorer Dion Dublin being available again after suspension and repaid manager Graham Taylor's faith in the best possible way.

The relief could be felt all around Villa Park as Taylor's side ended a seven-game run without a win and moved past the 40 point mark.

They certainly deserved their success as they were the more purposeful and threatening side for long periods in the windswept conditions.

Gareth Barry was again excellent in midfield and must wonder what he has to do to earn an England call-up from Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Darius Vassell caused problems with his pace up front while Allback put a season of frustration behind him in which he has played only a bit part in Taylor's plans.

Chelsea can have no complaints with the outcome with only the woodwork preventing Rob Edwards and Steve Staunton from doubling the home side's tally.

Claudio Ranieri's side had their fair share of possession but they were kept in check and limited to half chances by a Villa defence superbly marshaled by Olof Mellberg and Joey Gudjonsson.

It was fitting that John Terry should score a last minute consolation effort as he was easily Chelsea's best player.

But defeat was a massive blow to their hopes of securing an automatic Champions League spot as a run of four successive wins was brought to an end.

Villa were soon on the offensive and Carlo Cudicini parried a dipping free-kick from Gudjonsson before they went ahead after 11 minutes.

Gudjonsson whipped in a cross from the right flank, Gareth Barry chested the ball down and Allback did the rest with a volley from eight yards out which flew across Cudicini into the corner of the net.

Gudjonsson then limped out of the action to be replaced by skipper Steve Staunton but Villa continued to look the more menacing.

Staunton was soon into the thick of the action and he linked up well down the left flank with Jlloyd Samuel before finding Darius Vassell in space.

But the England striker hurried his close range effort when he had time to steady himself and his eventual low shot was comfortably saved by Cudicini.

Chelsea started to come more into the game with Gianfranco Zola making his presence felt but Villa 'keeper Peter Enckelman was not seriously tested in the opening 45 minutes as he comfortably deal with a couple of efforts from the Italian.

It was Villa, without a win since beating Blackburn in early February, who still looked the more menacing.
Barry, again impressing in midfield, took a pass from Samuel into his stride and forced Cudicini into a low save away to his left.

Cudicini then did well to deny Vassell as he burst down the middle but the follow-up shot from Samuel was comfortably collected by the Chelsea 'keeper.

In first half injury-time Enckelman was nearly caught out by Carlton Cole as he rolled the ball out of his area but the Holte End alerted him to the danger and he was able to clear.

Chelsea were forced into a half-time substitution with Mario Melchiot replaced by Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink.

In a reshuffle Gallas switched flanks to replace Melchiot at right-back with Le Saux dropping back into the left-back slot and Zola reverting to the left side of midfield.

But the woodwork came to Chelsea's rescue after a flick from Vassell had sent Edwards clear down the right. He cut into the area, beat Cudicini all ends up with a deft chip but his effort clipped the bar.

Play was swinging from end to end but it was Villa who were looking the more likely to find the net.
Again Villa were denied by the woodwork as Staunton thumped a powerful shot against the post from eight yards out after playing a one-two with Allback.

Chelsea's best chance to date fell to Enrique de Lucas after 57 minutes following good play by Cole but he drove his shot wide from close range.

Villa had strong looking appeals for a penalty rejected after a mis-timed challenge by Desailly on Hitzlsperger.

The woodwork again came to Chelsea's rescue when Staunton thumped a powerful shot against the post after playing a one-two with Allback.

Chelsea were enjoying as much of the possession but it was 57 minutes before they carved out - and missed - a chance of clearcut proportions.

Cole played the ball into the path of the onrushing de Lucas but he send his shot high and wide from eight yards out.

Claudio Ranieri made a double substitution, bringing on Eidur Gudjohnsen and Celestine Babayaro for Zola and Le Saux.

But with 12 minutes left Allback made sure of victory for Villa. Hitzlsperger's cross was headed on by Vassell and Allback won a challenge with Desailly before netting from close range.

Terry headed home a Hasselbaink corner in the 90th minute but it was too little, too late for the disappointing Blues.

MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Marcus Allback (Aston Villa) - finally doing what he was bought for

Aston Villa: Enckelman, Mellberg, Johnsen, Barry, Edwards, Leonhardsen, Gudjonsson (Staunton 19), Hitzlsperger, Samuel, Allback, Vassell.
Subs Not Used: Angel, Dublin, Postma, Cooke.
Booked: Leonhardsen.

Chelsea: Cudicini, Gallas, Terry, Desailly, Melchiot (Hasselbaink 45), De Lucas, Lampard, Petit, Le Saux (Babayaro 66), Zola (Gudjohnsen 66), Cole.
Subs Not Used: de Goey, Zenden.

Att: 39,358

Ref: R Styles (Hampshire)

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