|Allback 11, 78
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
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
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
But the England striker hurried his close range effort when he had
time to steady himself and his eventual low shot was comfortably saved
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
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
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
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
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,
Subs Not Used: Angel, Dublin, Postma, Cooke.
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.
Ref: R Styles (Hampshire)