As Aston Villa defeated the 10-man Blues at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea’s shaky start to the Premier League season took a turn for the worse.
Ollie Watkins scored a flawless winning goal between Robert Sanchez’s knees from a precariously close angle as Villa profited from Malo Gusto’s dismissal for dangerous play.
Prior to Gusto’s dismissal for a careless tackle that caught Lucas Digne on the ankle, Mauricio Pochettino’s home team had a tonne of chances but failed to capitalise on any of them, as they have done so frequently this season.
Excellent stops by Emiliano Martinez denied Nicolas Jackson and Raheem Sterling in one-on-one situations, while Enzo Fernandez missed yet another wonderful opportunity.
Both Digne and Nicolo Zaniolo’s brilliantly driven volleys were stopped by flying fingertip saves from Chelsea’s own custodian, Alexis Sanchez.
Even after Gusto was dismissed, there were opportunities at both ends, but Villa took one via Watkins to move up to sixth, while Chelsea failed to score for the third game in a row to remain in 14th.
Pochettino has more problems now
The only victories Chelsea has had in its seven games under Pochettino have come against Luton and AFC Wimbledon, and the injured Blues will be regretting their bad luck after suffering a second straight home loss.
They’ll think Villa’s winning goal was a little bit lucky since Levi Colwill did an outstanding job of stopping Watkins’ original shot, but the ball kindly ricocheted for the striker to sneak home a beautiful finish at the second try.
The Blues’ perception that not much is going their way, but they are also not helping themselves, will be exacerbated by an Axel Disasi header that was just barely disallowed for offside at the conclusion of the first half.
While the Blues’ finishing once again fell short, Gusto’s red-card challenge was not malicious but was poorly timed and was always going to be upgraded from yellow when the video assistance referee interfered.
The one-on-one battles Martinez had with Jackson, Sterling, and later substitute Ben Chilwell were won admirably, but Chelsea ought to have scored on at least one of those opportunities.
Pochettino’s problems are made much worse by the fact that Jackson, who has now received five bookings in just six games, will sit out the team’s next game along with Gusto, who is suspended.
Watkins returns to the goal line
Villa continue to appear to be a club on the rise under Unai Emery, while Chelsea are experiencing their worst start to a season in eight years, since Jose Mourinho’s disastrous final season at Stamford Bridge.
While it is true that they sat back for the majority of the first half and relied on Martinez’s brilliance to keep Chelsea at bay, Villa also made their own opportunities and really took the lead after Gusto was sent off.
The victory will come as a comfort to Watkins, who had scored only once in his previous 12 league appearances following a shock Europa League loss at Legia Warsaw in midweek.
However, the English striker had scored 11 goals in the 12 games prior to that, and Villa will be hoping his outstanding performance here can start another such goal glut.
A clean sheet, earned through Martinez’s brilliance and some excellent last-ditch defending, will be well received by Emery before Brighton’s visit to Villa Park on Saturday. Keeping goals out the other end has been their main problem, especially on the road where they have shipped five at Newcastle and three at both Liverpool and Warsaw.