Aston Villa holds Chelsea to 3 – 3


    Ciaran Clark’s injury-time goal earned Aston Villa a point after a pulsating finish to their game against Chelsea.
    Chelsea went ahead when Florent Malouda was fouled and Frank Lampard struck from the spot, before Ashley Young’s penalty got Villa back on level terms.
    Emile Heskey headed in to make it 2-1 to Villa before Didier Drogba slammed in from an angle and then John Terry slotted in late on to make it 3-2.
    But there was still time for Clark to head in Marc Albrighton’s cross.
    It was a quite extraordinary conclusion to the game, reminiscent of the 4-4 draw these two teams played out in the same fixture on Boxing Day in 2007.
    Villa were on course for a famous victory but they were foiled by Drogba six minutes from time and the roof nearly came off Stamford Bridge when Terry side-footed home soon after.
    However, Clark’s goal 55 seconds into stoppage time – which owed much to some schoolboy defending from the hosts – may have irreparably damaged Chelsea’s title hopes, leaving the Blues six points behind leaders Manchester United having played a game more.
    The thrilling conclusion leaves the Blues with only one win in their last eight league games and languishing in fifth, but Villa will also wonder how they did not emerge victorious from a contest which enthralled throughout.
    Villa boss Gerard Houllier has faced calls from some fans to quit after a woeful run that has seen them become embroiled in a relegation battle, but in naming an experienced side to try and lift the gloom that has descended on the Midlands side in recent weeks he got his team selection spot on.
    Showing an industry and desire that was badly lacking in the 4-0 capitulation at Manchester City, Villa were the better side for long periods, and recalled striker Heskey was at his belligerent best as he bullied Chelsea’s 19-year-old defender Jeffrey Bruma – making his first Premier League start – for much of the afternoon.
    Villa continually found gaps between Chelsea’s defence and midfield and Young and Downing both forced saves from Petr Cech before the hosts took a controversial lead, Lampard scoring from the spot after Malouda went down under James Collins’s tackle, even though the Frenchman appeared to commit the first foul.
    Villa were livid and a flurry of bookings ensued as they took umbrage at the decision, but it did not take them long to reassert their authority and twice they wasted golden chances to level as Clark nodded over unmarked from eight yards and then Dunne somehow sliced over from even closer in.
    But Villa did get the break their effort deserved as Mason pointed to the spot for the second time after a clumsy Michael Essien challenge on Nigel Reo-Coker, with Young stepping up and lashing the penalty high into the net.
    It was a familiar story after the break and Chelsea soon found themselves behind when Young found Downing down the right, he created a yard of space against Ashley Cole to cross and at the far post Heskey outmuscled Bruma to nod in.
    As the shock at trailing wore off Chelsea improved, but they found Brad Friedel in inspired form as he reacted superbly to tip over Lampard’s volley and then saved well from Malouda with his legs.
    Just when it seemed like Villa would hold on and claim a famous victory, an already fine game produced an explosive ending and Drogba started the carnage with a shot through a pile of bodies at the near post after Friedel had magnificently denied Salomon Kalou.
    Chelsea piled forward looking for a winner and they must have thought they had found it when Friedel once more pulled off a stunning save from Drogba’s header only to see Terry gleefully slot in from the rebound.
    But Villa were not finished either and they grabbed the point their wholehearted display deserved when Chelsea got their offside trap all wrong and Albrighton’s cross was headed in by Clark.
    There was still time for Drogba to poke a Jose Bosingwa cross wide, but in the end these relentless sides both had to settle for a point.
    Source: BBC