Express & Star

FA Cup: Aston Villa 1 Chelsea 3 - Report

Villa’s season is now being fought on only two fronts after this most frustratingly meek FA Cup exit.


If Unai Emery is to end the club’s long wait for a major trophy this year, it will likely have to be in the Europa Conference League.

The FA Cup is no longer an option, after a path to the quarter-finals which appeared to be opening invitingly was emphatically slammed shut by resurgent Chelsea.

It is the west London club who will now host Leeds in the fifth round later this month thanks, to a fourth round replay win at Villa Park more comfortable than their embattled manager, Mauricio Pochettino, could ever have dreamed.

The Argentine had entered the night under mounting pressure after heavy defeats to Liverpool and Wolves. With his team having lost six of their previous seven on the road, the omens were not good.

And yet they cruised home against alarmingly lethargic Villa, goals from Conor Gallagher and Nico Jackson putting them 2-0 up before the first half had reached the midway point.

Enzo Fernandez capped the night with a superb free-kick to put the tie beyond doubt early in the second half, with substitute Moussa Diaby then drilling the home side a stoppage time consolation. Chelsea, as a team, were excellent.

Villa’s performance, however, provided cause for concern. Having lost only once at Villa Park in 11 months, Emery’s men have now been beaten on home turf twice in the space of eight days.

Both have been with the head coach having fielded his strongest possible line-up, Matty Cash coming in for the injured Ezri Konsa the only change from the team which started Saturday’s 5-0 hammering of Sheffield United.

Just as in the previous week’s 3-1 defeat to Newcastle, Emery was strangely reluctant to make changes when things went awry. Villa’s first substitutions of the night did not take place until 19 minutes from time.

Adding to the sense of annoyance was the fact Villa had battled so hard at Stamford Bridge to force the replay in the first place.

The hosts actually began brightly with both Leon Bailey and Alex Moreno having half chances.

But there had already been a warning when Fernandez headed straight at Emi Martinez from a corner and soon after the visitors led.

Boubacar Kamara was jostled into a hurried pass and lost possession. Gallagher found Jackson in space on the left and then advanced to collect the ball again 12 yards from goal after Noni Madueke had laid off the Senegal international’s pass. His first time, side footed finish, found the top corner of the Villa net.

The hosts looked for a quick response and Djordje Petrovic was forced to push over an Ollie Watkins volley.

It was the visitors, however, looking the more dangerous and clinical team. Madueke threatened again when he drove towards goal and shot wide and then laid on the second for Jackson as Chelsea doubled the lead.

Afforded acres of space down the right, his cross was met by an unmarked Jackson without a Villa player within five yards, the much-maligned frontman cushioning a header into the bottom corner.

The home supporters seemed stunned, the only noise in the ground coming from the 6,000 travelling fans.

Villa couldn’t do anything right, their half summed up during a passage of play which started with a free-kick played into the Chelsea box and ended with Martinez saving from Palmer 15 seconds later, after Madueke had barged Watkins off the ball and outmuscled Luiz.

John McGinn at least forced Petrovic into a save just before the break with a rising shot which the keeper tipped over the bar.

But for the second week running Villa went in 2-0 down at the break and for the second week running their predicament got worse within 10 minutes of the restart.

Thomas Bramall’s decision to award Fernandez a free-kick, when the Argentina international appeared to tumble due to his own air-shot rather than because of any contact from Youri Tielemans, might have been questionable.

There could be no doubting the quality of what came next, as his free-kick curled over Villa’s jumping wall and just underneath the bar, beyond the grasp of Martinez who got fingertips to it but no more.

Villa, just as against Newcastle the previous week, showed signs of rallying but it was all too late. McGinn shot wide and was unlucky not to be awarded a free-kick when Caicedo appeared to clip him, while Moreno headed off target after being left unmarked at the far post.

Diaby finally gave those home supporters still remaining something to cheer when he drilled home in the first minute of stoppage time, a first goal of 2024 for the record signing was an individual positive in a hugely disappointing team display.


Villa (4-4-2): Martinez, Cash, Carlos, Lenglet, Moreno, Bailey (Zaniolo 88), Luiz, Kamara (Iroegbunam 88), McGinn (Ramsey 71), Tielemans (Diaby 71), Watkins Subs not used: Torres, Chambers, Kellyman, Wright (gk), Olsen (gk).

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Petrovic, Gusto, Disasi, Badiashile, Chilwell (c), Gallagher, Caicedo, Gallagher, Madueke (Sterling 75), Jackson, Palmer (Silva 81) Subs not used: Bergstrom, Gilchrist, Samuels-Smith, Chukwuemeka, Mudryk, Nkunku, Bettinelli (gk).