Andre Villas Boas made three changes to the side which drew with Fulham. Didier Drogba replaced Torres and Paulo Ferreira deputized for the injured full-back Jose Bosingwa. Frank Lampard also missed out with Brazilian midfielder Ramires returning to the starting lineup.
We struggled for fluency in the opening stages with Villa sticking to their defensive task but also with the odd flurry indicating that their pace on the counter could cause trouble.
Given the cagey nature of the opening 20 minutes, the breakthrough for us came as a relief when
Drogba collected the ball in the box after Ramires’ burst from midfield and shifted it into an area of little threat, only to see Richard Dunne clumsily throw out a leg to bring him down for a penalty.
Drogba stepped up and slotted a slightly nervous spot kick down the middle for his 150th Chelsea goal but just five minutes later Villa were level.
Charles N’Zogbia raced into the box, after being released by Ireland who then cut back to his provider to see him slide the ball beyond Petr Cech after it appeared that John Terry’s arm may have prevented his first effort.
We might have regained the lead when Guzan’s tame block allowed Mata to release a shot at an empty goal, which Stephen Warnock slid in to clear.
It was our best chance before half time other than a Drobga free-kick driven wide being the only other opportunity of note before the break.
No changes were made at half time.
We started the second period brighter when a Raul Meireles pass found Mata in space but no-one gambled on his drive across the six yard box.
At the other end, a Villa free kick evaded everyone but defender James Collins and he almost diverted the ball beyond Cech into the Chelsea goal.
We then received another let off as an exchange between N’Zogbia and Ireland allowed Villa to break and release Agbonlahor one-on-one with Cech. Luckily for us he could not provide the finishing touch.
Villas-Boas looked to his bench 10 minutes into the second half, as Frank Lampard replaced Oriol Romeu.
Mata was proving to be our creative outlet beating two Villa defenders in the box before standing the ball up to the back post. Once again, however, no Chelsea forward could provide the finish to his good work.
Torres replaced Sturridge on the hour and within a minute had a fantastic drive from the edge of the box which crashed off the Villa bar but they continued to provide stubborn resistance.
A defensive change by us almost proved key with 15 minutes remaining as Bosingwa replaced Ferreira and brought a fine save from Guzan.
With AVB having made all three possible changes, Alex McLeish introduced his first substitute of the game as Darren Bent returned in place of N’Zogbia whilst Gary Gardner replaced Albrighton.
We conceded a second goal when Ciaran Clark found Petrov free in a disorganised Chelsea defence, and he drove home to give Villa the lead.
As anxiety mounted amongst Chelsea supporters things went from bad to worse when Ireland intercepted Frank Lampard’s loose pass across defence to find himself through on goal and he passed to Bent who forced the ball past Cech to seal the points for the visitors.
The defeat consigned us to a miserable end to 2011 and only a day’s respite before we play Wolves away on Monday.
Gill Reeves – CSG disabled rep.
• 01 Cech
• 03 Cole
• 04 David Luiz
• 19 Ferreira (Bosingwa 75)
• 26 Terry – yellow card
• 06 Romeu (Lampard 57)
• 07 Ramires
• 16 Meireles
• 10 Mata
• 11 Drogba
• 23 Sturridge (Torres 62)
• 22 Turnbull,
• 17 Bosingwa,
• 27 Hutchinson,
• 08 Lampard,
• 15 Malouda,
• 09 Torres,
• 21 Kalou
• 22 Guzan
• 03 Warnock
• 05 Dunne
• 06 Collins
• 21 Clark
• 24 Cuellar – yellow card
• 07 Ireland
• 10 N’Zogbia (Bent 78)
• 12 Albrighton (Gardner 78)
• 19 Petrov (Bannan 84)
• 11 Agbonlahor
• 33 Marshall,
• 02 Hutton,
• 25 Bannan,
• 38 Gardner,
• 09 Bent,
• 14 Delfouneso,
• 26 Weimann