Chelsea’s stuttering start to the Premier League season took another turn for the worse as Aston Villa piled more misery on the 10-man Blues with victory at Stamford Bridge.
Ollie Watkins fired home an unerring winner between the legs of Robert Sanchez from an incredibly tight angle as Villa capitalised on Malo Gusto’s dismissal for dangerous play.
Mauricio Pochettino’s hosts fashioned plenty of chances before Gusto’s red card for a poorly-timed tackle that caught Lucas Digne on the ankle but, as so often this season, failed to take any of them.
Nicolas Jackson and Raheem Sterling were both denied one-on-one by excellent Emiliano Martinez saves while Enzo Fernandez sliced another glorious opportunity wide.
Chelsea had been equally indebted to their own goalkeeper as Sanchez made a pair of flying fingertip saves to thwart beautifully-struck volleys by Digne and Nicolo Zaniolo.
There were chances at both ends even after Gusto was sent off but Villa, who climb to sixth, took one of theirs via Watkins, while Chelsea failed to score for a third successive game to stay 14th.
The Blues have just five points from their opening six games and their woes pre-date Pochettino’s appointment, with only two wins and 11 goals in their past 14 home league matches.
But the Argentine remains convinced better times lurk just around the corner if his side can overcome their shyness in front of goal.
“The team never gives up and of course we are going to fight to change as quickly as possible,” he said.
“I am seeing the team trying. We created many chances. We cannot criticise or say anything about the capacity to fight, they are fighting and they have the will.”
More headaches for Pochettino
Chelsea’s only wins in their seven games under Pochettino have come against Luton and AFC Wimbledon and the injury-hit Blues will be cursing their luck after a second successive home defeat.
They will feel Villa’s winner was a tad fortunate as Levi Colwill did brilliantly to block Watkins’ initial effort but the ball ricocheted kindly for the striker to squeeze home a fine finish at the second attempt.
An Axel Disasi header narrowly ruled out for offside at the end of the first half will add to the Blues’ belief that little is going their way – but they are hardly helping themselves either.
Gusto’s red-card challenge was not malicious but it was ill-judged and was always going to be upgraded from yellow when the video assistant referee intervened, while the Blues’ finishing was once again simply not up to scratch.
Admittedly, Martinez did excellently to win his one-on-one duels with Jackson, Sterling and, later, substitute Ben Chilwell, but Chelsea should have converted at least one of those chances.
“We are confident in the way we perform – the only thing we are missing is scoring and if we keep working hard we will change,” Pochettino said.
“I am not frustrated, just disappointed. I think we were the better team until the red card.”
To add to the head coach’s headaches, however, with about a dozen players out injured, Jackson will now join the suspended Gusto on the sidelines for Chelsea’s next game after collecting a fifth booking in just six matches.
Watkins back on the goal trail
While Chelsea are enduring their worst start to a campaign in eight years – since Jose Mourinho’s dire final season at Stamford Bridge – Villa continue to look a club on the up under Unai Emery.
True, they sat off for much of the first half and needed some magic from Martinez to keep Chelsea at bay, but Villa also created chances of their own and really took the initiative after Gusto’s sending off.
The win will be a welcome one after a surprise Europa League defeat at Legia Warsaw in midweek – and the manner in which it came will be a relief to Watkins, who had scored just once in his past 12 league outings.
The England striker had, however, netted 11 times in the dozen games before that and Villa will be hopeful his excellent finish here can spark another similar goal glut.
It has been keeping goals out at the other end that has been their main problem, especially on the road, having shipped five at Newcastle and three at both Liverpool and Warsaw, so a clean sheet – merited through Martinez’s brilliance and some fine last-ditch defending – will be well received by Emery too before Brighton’s visit to Villa Park on Saturday.
“The clean sheet was very important because we conceded a lot of goals away. It was important to win through a clean sheet,” the Villa boss said.
“We needed to find a way where we were stronger than we were against Newcastle and Liverpool. Today was tough but we competed very well.”
- 27GustoBooked at 58mins
- 6Thiago Silva
- 25CaicedoSubstituted forBrojaat 79′minutes
- 8FernándezSubstituted forPalmerat 68′minutes
- 10MudrykSubstituted forChilwellat 61′minutesBooked at 90mins
- 15JacksonBooked at 50minsSubstituted forUgochukwuat 68′minutes
- 36de Souza Eugênio
- 1E MartínezBooked at 90mins
- 14P Torres
- 12DigneBooked at 44mins
- 44KamaraSubstituted forDendonckerat 90′minutes
- 6Douglas LuizBooked at 90mins
- 7McGinnSubstituted forJ Ramseyat 75′minutes
- 19DiabySubstituted forTielemansat 81′minutes
- 22ZanioloSubstituted forBaileyat 75′minutes
- 11WatkinsSubstituted forDuránat 90+1′minutes
- 41J Ramsey
- Jarred Gillett
Match ends, Chelsea 0, Aston Villa 1.
Second Half ends, Chelsea 0, Aston Villa 1.
Offside, Chelsea. Ben Chilwell tries a through ball, but Armando Broja is caught offside.
Ben Chilwell (Chelsea) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Leon Bailey (Aston Villa).
Attempt blocked. Cole Palmer (Chelsea) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Conor Gallagher.
Hand ball by Jhon Durán (Aston Villa).
Attempt blocked. Armando Broja (Chelsea) right footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Thiago Silva.
Foul by Armando Broja (Chelsea).
Ezri Konsa (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Aston Villa. Conceded by Axel Disasi.
Hand ball by Lesley Ugochukwu (Chelsea).
Emiliano Martínez (Aston Villa) is shown the yellow card.
Offside, Chelsea. Levi Colwill tries a through ball, but Cole Palmer is caught offside.
Attempt blocked. Cole Palmer (Chelsea) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Axel Disasi.
Douglas Luiz (Aston Villa) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Raheem Sterling (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Douglas Luiz (Aston Villa).
Substitution, Aston Villa. Jhon Durán replaces Ollie Watkins.
Substitution, Aston Villa. Leander Dendoncker replaces Boubacar Kamara.