Chelsea 0 Aston Villa 1 - Report
Ollie Watkins netted his first Premier League goal of the season to earn Villa victory at Chelsea.
The striker thumped home with 17 minutes remaining at Stamford Bridge as Unai Emery’s men rebounded from Thursday’s disappointing defeat at Legia Warsaw.
Their cause was helped by the red card shown to Chelsea defender Malo Gusto on the hour mark for a studs up challenge on Lucas Digne.
Villa goalkeeper Emi Martinez made several key saves as Emery’s men kept their first away clean sheet of the season in the league and moved into the top six.
Martinez denied Nico Jackson and Raheem Sterling before a crucial save to prevent Ben Chilwell from netting a swift leveller after Watkins’ goal.
Villa also had chances with Chelsea keeper Robert Sanchez saving from Lucas Digne, Nicolo Zaniolo and Jacob Ramsey.
But while their performance was some way from perfect, it was good enough against a desperately average Chelsea team.
Gusto’s dismissal helped, yet ultimately Villa ground it out and found a way to win.
Having been criticised for his selection in Warsaw, Emery reverted to the team which started the previous weekend’s Premier League win over Crystal Palace.
That meant a return to the starting XI for Pau Torres and the Spain international quickly involved as Chelsea began the brighter.
His risky pass across the face of goal would have been pounced on by Mykhailo Mudryk were it not for the alertness of Boubacar Kamara.
Torres did better when standing his ground to end Sterling’s run after the England international had broken dangerously into the box.
For all Chelsea’s pressure, a Moises Caicedo strike straight down the throat of Martinez was their only real effort of the early exchanges and the first big save of the match belonged to Sanchez, who tipped a dipping Digne volley over the bar.
Martinez was seriously tested just past the midway point of the half when Mudryk picked out Jackson’s run with a brilliant reverse pass. Villa’s keeper got enough on the flicked first-time finish to send it behind for a corner.
The visitors were then grateful to wasteful finishing from Enzo Fernandez with the Argentina international ballooning a shot over the bar when picked out in space.
Chelsea continued to look marginally the more dangerous, yet it was Sanchez who again came to the rescue when he denied Zaniolo. Kamara headed John McGinn’s corner back into the danger zone and the Italy international caught the volley sweetly, only for Sanchez to thrust out his left hand and send the ball over the bar.
Villa would probably have been the more satisfied team at the break but they began the second half sluggishly. Sterling escaped from Digne too easily but could not beat Martinez who saved at his near post.
Martinez would deny Sterling again soon after and though the flag was quickly raised, replays showed any VAR check for a goal would have been tight.
Instead video assistant Andy Madley’s next involvement was for Gusto’s dismissal. The defender’s studs up challenge looked a poor one in real time and after referee Gillett opted to only show a yellow card, he was asked to go and check the monitor, eventually upgrading to red.
Villa sensed a big opportunity and with 17 minutes to go got their goal. Diaby broke clear, fed Watkins and though the first effort was blocked by a sliding Colwill, the striker sent the second in off the far post.
The visitors were sloppy at the restart and nearly paid the price. Chilwell raced through but Martinez pulled off his best save of the day to date to preserve the lead. Axel Disasi then blazed horribly wide after getting away down the right.
Villa needed a second to ease the nerves but Sanchez denied Jacob Ramsey, on as a substitute, at full stretch. It didn’t matter, as the visitors saw out 12 minutes of stoppage time.
60 RED CARD Malo Gusto is sent-off. The defender is first shown a yellow card for a studs up challenge on Lucas Digne which is then upgraded to a red following a VAR check.
73 GOAL Ollie Watkins breaks the deadlock, firing home at the second attempt after Levi Colwill blocks his first effort.
Chelsea: Sanchez, Gusto, Silva, Disasi, Colwill, Caicedo (Broja 79), Gallagher, Sterling, Fernandez (Palmer 68), Mudryk (Chilwell 60), Jackson (Ugochukwu 68) Subs not used: Cucurella, Petrovic, Maatsen, Eugenio, Bergstrom (gk).
Villa (4-4-2): Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Torres, Digne, McGinn (Bailey 75), Kamara, Luiz, Zaniolo (Ramsey 75), Diaby (Tielemans 81), Watkins (Duran 90) Subs not used: Chambers, Lenglet, Duran, Dendoncker, Kellyman, Olsen (gk).