Brave Villa Hold Chelsea (Sky Sports)
Aston Villa 1 Chelsea 1
Chelsea were held to their third consecutive 1-1 draw after a hard-fought display by Aston Villa.
In a close contest, it seemed as though Chelsea would hold on to the slender 1-0 advantage they held for more than an hour, but Aston Villa finally earned the point that their performance deserved.
The Premiership leaders were slow to settle, as Villa made a confident start and put them on the back foot, and there were one or two anxious moments in the Chelsea defence before Arjen Robben fired them in front (14).
With their first fluid move of the match, William Gallas hared down the left wing and received a pass from Frank Lampard, before cutting a low cross into Joe Cole in the box. The England man was badly positioned with his back to goal, but held the ball up well for Robben, who pounced on the chance and smashed his volley into the net.
Seconds after the restart Gavin McCann almost produced a sensational equaliser when his long range effort flew narrowly wide, before Chelsea started to get into their stride.
Robben and Cole linked up brilliantly and The Blues looked threatening every time either of them picked up possession, while Claude Makelele and Eidur Gudjohnsen battled hard in midfield.
However, Aston Villa had only lost one of their last eight games, and were not daunted by going one down against the meanest defence in the league.
A vehement appeal for a penalty was turned down when John Terry blocked Milan Baros' flick with his hand, but David O'Leary's men were undeterred and continued to press forward in pursuit of a leveller.
James Milner, impressive throughout, provided a pin-point cross for Kevin Phillips, but the striker's firm header was superbly saved by Petr Cech.
Gareth Barry also went close with a fierce left foot drive, and Villa would have gone into half time feeling justifiably upset to be behind.
Both sides continued to show their hunger to win after the break, but there were few clear cut opportunities at either end early on as two organised defences nullified the danger on every occasion.
Robben stung the palms of Thomas Sorensen with a fine strike, but Chelsea were largely restricted to shots from distance which caused no real alarms.
Villa peppered the Chelsea box with crosses, but could find no way past the solid pairing of Terry and Ricardo Carvalho until O'Leary made two bold substitutions.
Juan Pablo Angel and Luke Moore were brought on to freshen up the front line, and it was Moore who immediately made an impact with virtually his first touch of the night (78).
Mark Delaney skipped past Terry and surged forward, before playing a dangerous low ball into the near post. Glen Johnson failed to clear, and Moore had the simple task of tapping in his second goal against Chelsea this season.
Jose Mourinho's side responded in typical fashion, upping the tempo and varying their tactics, but in truth Villa looked just as likely to grab a late winner in a frenetic final ten minutes.
Aston Villa Sorensen, Hughes, Delaney, Mellberg,
Samuel,Milner, McCann, Davis, Barry, Baros (Angel 75),Phillips (Moore 75).
Subs Not Used: Taylor, Hendrie, Ridgewell.
Goals: Moore 77.
Chelsea Cech, Johnson, Carvalho, Terry,
Gallas,Lampard, Makelele, Joe Cole (Duff 69), Crespo (Maniche 75),Robben,
Gudjohnsen (Huth 86).
Subs Not Used: Pidgeley, Del Horno.
Booked: Crespo, Johnson, Gallas.
Goals: Robben 14.
Referee: R Styles (Hampshire).