Eight-goal cracker at the Bridge
Blues reduced to nine men, with 10-man Villa netting late leveller
By James Dall. Last Updated: 26/12/07 3:31pm
Shevchenko: Stunning second
Chelsea and Aston Villa played out an enthralling encounter at Stamford Bridge, with the scoreline finishing 4-4.
Villa started the game impressively and shocked the home crowd, taking a two-goal lead via a Shaun Maloney brace.
However, Chelsea were handed a lifeline when Zat Knight was dismissed for a clumsy foul on Michael Ballack, and Andrei Shevchenko buried from the penalty spot.
Four minutes into the second half the Ukraine international levelled beautifully, before Alex finished well to complete a stunning turnaround.
10-man Villa then did the unthinkable and equalised through Martin Laursen before Ricardo Carvalho was dismissed for a dangerous two-footed challenge on Gabriel Agbonlahor.
The drama continued to unfold and Ballack made it 4-3 with a curling free-kick, however there were incredible scenes in the dying seconds when Ashley Cole was red-carded for deliberately handling in the box, and Gareth Barry coolly buried his spot-kick.
Villa capitalised on Chelsea's lethargic start to ease 2-0 ahead shortly before the interval.
Maloney needed the assistance of a rare blunder from Petr Cech for the second, however, as Chelsea toiled to subdue their more lively opponents.
The Scotland striker's effort should have been routine for Cech, who was a surprise inclusion in the team after sustaining a bruised side and hip against Blackburn.
But the Czech goalkeeper allowed the ball to bounce in front of him and watched in horror as it slipped into the net for a goal that will raise doubts over his fitness.
He could not be blamed for the first, however, as Agbonlahor skipped into space in the 14th minute and picked out John Carew whose looping header was bundled home by Maloney.
The move was perfectly executed and Chelsea's rearguard continued to creak as Agbonlahor blasted a reasonable chance over the crossbar.
Frank Lampard's hopes of netting his 100th goal for Chelsea ended in the 26th minute when he limped off having failed to run off what appeared to be a thigh injury.
Ballack, who has been out for eight months with an ankle injury, came on and was involved in the build-up as Claudio Pizarro tested Scott Carson.
Joe Cole then wasted Chelsea's best chance, created by astute work from Ballack, when he pushed his shot straight into the arms of Carson.
Alex nodded a corner wide but the home side then slipped further behind thanks to Cech's howler.
Maloney pulled clear on the left flank and darted into the area before pulling the trigger with an attempt that Cech missed completely.
There was still time for one more twist in the first half, however, as on the stroke of half-time Knight clipped Ballack and Dowd pointed to the spot.
Knight was harshly given his marching orders by the Staffordshire official and to rub salt into the wound Shevchenko powered home the penalty.
Shevchenko failed to get hold of the ball as Chelsea made use of the extra man but the Ukraine striker swiftly made amends by firing a stunning 50th-minute equaliser.
Salomon Kalou teed up the chance and Shevchenko made no mistake, sprinting on to the ball and smashing it home from 25 yards out to give Carson no chance.
All the momentum was with Chelsea and it came as little surprise when they took the lead for the first time.
Shevchenko did the damage by skilfully escaping Barry and finding Alex who escaped Curtis Davies and buried the ball in the net with an emphatic strike.
But there was still plenty of fight left in Villa who equalised in the 72nd minute when Lauren escaped a static defence to prod home Ashley Young's free-kick.
A vicious two-footed tackle by Carvalho saw the Portuguese centre-back join Knight in the stands, blowing the game wide open.
It was Chelsea who appeared to have struck the decisive blow when Laursen's tackle on Joe Cole was penalised by Dowd and Ballack converted with a thunderous free-kick.
But more drama was to follow as Ashley Cole was sent off for clearing Agbonlahor's shot off the line with his hands and Barry's penalty snatched the point.
|Chelsea||Team Statistics||Aston Villa|
|1||1st Half Goals||2|
|8||Shots on Target||7|
|6||Shots off Target||6|
Barclays Premier League
Wed 26th Dec
Chelsea4 - 4A Villa
West Ham1 - 1Reading
Tottenham5 - 1Fulham
Wigan1 - 0Newcastle
S'land0 - 4Man Utd
Everton2 - 0Bolton
Birm'ham3 - 0M'boro
Derby1 - 2Liverpool
Portsmth0 - 0Arsenal
Barclays Premier League
|4||West Ham United||8||13|
|14||West Bromwich Albion||8||9|
|20||Queens Park Rangers||8||4|