We were held to a goalless draw at Villa Park in a game that saw each of the sides creating and missing good chances to score.
Carlo Ancelotti gave youngster Gael Kakuta a place in the starting eleven with us missing Didier Drogba. Aston Villa were relying on their midfielders and wingers, Downing, Ireland and Ashley Young but also on their powerful striker John Carew. Since Manchester United were held to a surprising 2-2 draw at home by West Bromwich Albion early on in the day we had a great opportunity to widen the gap at the top of the table.
Aston Villa started with great determination and they missed two golden opportunities inside the opening five minutes.
First Stephen Ireland sent the ball wide from a great position inside the area and then Petr Cech denied John Carew with a fingertip save. The game cooled off a bit after the initial minutes and Aston Villa had to replace injured Richard Dunne with Ciaran Clark.
Aston Villa were still dangerous in the 20th minute when Stylian Petrov’s deflected shot resulted in a corner kick that John Carew headed towards the goal but Petr Cech easily held the ball.
It took until the 34th minute to see a decent chance from us. Essien fired from 20 yards out but the shot went straight into the keeper’s grateful arms. Anelka tried his luck a minute later from 30 yards but the ball went high and wide into the stands.
Aston Villa replied on 38 minutes when a powerful shot from Ireland was blocked by Ivanovic. Ireland claimed that Ivanovic stopped it with his hand inside the penalty area but the referee had none of it and waved play on.
Carlo Ancelotti made a change in the Chelsea attack at half time; Gael Kakuta was replaced by Yuri Zhirkov. We started the second half in an attacking mood and the first chance came two minutes after the break when Florent Malouda unleashed a powerful shot from 20 yards but Friedel calmly held the ball.
We were showing a much more positive attitude and Anelka created another chance on 53 minutes when he skipped past Collins and fired in a shot at the near post where Friedel cleared with his foot. Our domination continued and we could have broken the deadlock in the 68th minute when Malouda worked a ball for Anelka but he curled it wide from inside the area.
Aston Villa were aiming to strike on counter attacks as Gerard Houllier decided to send on striker Nathan Delfouneso to replace John Carew in the 74th minute while Carlo Ancelotti made two subs. Bosingwa replaced Ferreria making his first appearance since his injury at this ground a year ago, and young Josh McEachran came on for Ramires.
Chelsea came very close to breaking the deadlock 14 minutes from time, a corner kick cross found Ivanovic inside the area but his powerful header hit the post and bounced away. Three minutes later it was Aston Villa’s turn to hit the woodwork, Ciaran Clark headed on a free kick cross, the ball bounced past Petr Cech but hit the far post.
Chelsea continued to push forward and they had a golden opportunity to win the game in the 89th minute when a pinpoint cross from Ashley Cole was met by Anelka but he directed it too far down and it bounced up onto the crossbar with Friedel for once beaten.
Aston Villa’s defence was under pressure but they missed their own huge chance to claim the three points: Nigel Reo-Coker broke free of the last defender on a counter attack; he chipped the ball past Petr Cech but the ball went harmlessly wide.
So we were unable to take advantage of Man Utd’s slip up but all in all 0-0 was a fair reflection of the game.
Gill Reeves CSG Disabled Rep