Petrov sees Blues win thriller
Villa go down 4-2 at home to Chelsea on emotional afternoon
Last Updated: 31/03/12 6:44pm
Stiliyan Petrov was in attendance as Aston Villa were beaten 4-2 by Chelsea on an emotional afternoon in the Midlands.
Villa announced on Friday that Petrov had been diagnosed with acute leukaemia and his presence at the ground added to the sentiment of the occasion as team-mates and supporters showed their support for the popular Bulgarian, who had reportedly insisted the game go ahead as he prepares to begin treatment on Monday.
Watching the game from a hospitality box with his family, Petrov was visibly moved as he acknowledged the crowd during a special ovation in the 19th minute in recognition of his shirt number.
Villa were already 1-0 down by that point, though, with Daniel Sturridge firing home from close range on nine minutes after Fernando Torres' initial shot had been blocked.
Chelsea doubled their advantage thanks to Branislav Ivanovic in the 51st minute after a corner had been poorly defended, and it looked like there was no way back for Villa with Roberto Di Matteo's men in total control.
However, there was an explosion of excitement in the final stages as Danny Collins reduced Villa's arrears with a goal out of nowhere and then Eric Lichaj equalised at the back post from Marc Albrighton's terrific cross.
Chelsea quickly regrouped and Ivanovic headed in his second goal of the afternoon to put them back in front.
Villa tried to exert some late pressure but Torres scored a fine late goal on the counter-attack, his first in the Premier League for six months, to seal victory and boost the Blues' chances of finishing in the top four, whilst leaving Villa very much still in the relegation scrap.
Not to be denied
The first clear-cut chance fell to Chelsea striker Torres and he failed to take advantage.
David Luiz slipped a through ball to the Spaniard, who found himself with only Shay Given to beat but the Villa keeper was quickly off his line to block the shot.
Chelsea were not to be denied and after nine minutes went ahead through Sturridge's 12th goal of the season.
Salomon Kalou cut in from the left and picked out Juan Mata, whose shot was blocked by Given.
The rebound fell to Torres, who was denied by a last-ditch tackle from Stephen Warnock, but Sturridge converted the loose ball from close range.
Villa were fortunate when a fierce drive from Mikel deflected off James Collins straight into the hands of Given.
Collins had a chance at the other end when attacking a Barry Bannan corner but could not keep his header down.
Mata came close to making it 2-0 when his shot struck a post and Torres' follow-up attempt was blocked by Collins.
Sturridge was looking full of confidence and cut in from the left, forcing Given to make a low save.
Then two minutes before the interval a superb save from Petr Cech kept Chelsea ahead. Andreas Weimann played the ball to Gabriel Agbonlahor, who spun sharply 10 yards out before firing in a powerful low drive.
But Cech somehow managed to deflect the shot over the bar to deny Agbonlahor a first goal in 15 Premier League games.
After 51 minutes Ivanovic doubled Chelsea's lead. Torres attacked a near post corner from Mata and looked to get a slight touch on the ball before it fell to Ivanovic.
The defender made no mistake in turning the ball past Given.
Stephen Warnock became the first player to be yellow carded for a late challenge on Chelsea skipper John Terry.
Mata curled a long range free-kick over the bar and Torres glanced a header wide.
Collins gave Villa a lifeline with 14 minutes remaining when he headed a long throw from Lichaj past Cech.
Then four minutes later Villa Park erupted when Lichaj equalised for Alex McLeish's side.
Albrighton was the creator with a dangerous low ball across the Chelsea six-yard box and Lichaj made no mistake at the far post.
But Villa were again caught out at a corner in the 82nd minute when Ivanovic restored Chelsea's lead.
Florent Malouda floated the ball into the danger area and no-one picked up Ivanovic as he headed past Given.
Then in time added on Torres scored his first Premier League goal for six months when he beat Given with a low drive.
|Aston Villa||Team Statistics||Chelsea|
|0||1st Half Goals||1|
|5||Shots on Target||7|
|4||Shots off Target||3|
|41.2||1st Half Poss.||58.8|
|43.6||2nd Half Poss.||56.4|
Barclays Premier League
|11||West Ham United||34||37|
|16||West Bromwich Albion||33||33|