Martin O’Neill’s Aston Villa side headed down to the capital to take on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Boxing Day in 2007. Avram Grant was manager of a Chelsea side that had failed to lose a home game in almost four years – and the Villans almost put an end to their fantastic record.

It was a game that had everything: red cards, penalties and, most importantly, lots of goals!

The home side made a sloppy start and early mistakes from full-backs Ashley Cole and Paulo Ferriera saw both Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbonlahor come close.

The two wingers had been instrumental during Villa’s win over Chelsea at Villa Park earlier in the season so it was no real surprise to see the two of them tormenting the Blues once again.

Agbonlahor robbed Salomon Kalou and found some space out on the right before finding big John Carew, who headed the ball back across goal for Shaun Maloney to volley past Petr Cech to give the away side the lead.

Villa supporter Agbonlahor continued to cause problems and could have improved the visitors’ lead on two occasions, only to be denied by Cech.

Chelsea’s bad start then got worse when club legend Frank Lampard was forced to be substituted with a thigh injury and was replaced by then German international Michael Ballack.

The home side started to get a foot back in the game as Joe Cole threatened the Villa goal but it was easily saved by Scott Carson.

However, O’Neill’s men soon doubled their lead.

Former Celtic striker Maloney took a routine shot from about twenty yards out but Cech had got all his angles wrong and the ball squirmed up off his arm and into the corner of the net.

The Villans were 2-0 up and the game looked as good as over but things were about to change on the stroke of half time.

Michael Essien scuffed a shot from twenty-five yards and the ball fell to Ballack. He got in front of Villa defender Zat Knight, who brought down the German international.Zat Knight is shown red by Phil Dowd.

Phil Dowd quickly showed the former Fulham man a red card and Andriy Shevchenko pulled one back for the home side from the spot.

Shevchenko then had a chance to pull the home side level two minutes into the second half but was denied by Carson.

He didnt have to wait long though… Kalou wriggled free and laid the ball across the box to Shevchenko, who took a touch and smashed the ball into the back of the net.

The Blues took the game by the scruff of the neck and the home side now had full control. The pressure was relentless as Kalou and Ballack both tested the Villa goal.

It was the Brazilian defender Alex who completed the turn around: the centre-half brought the ball out of defence, exchanging passes with Shevchenko before firing past Carson.

The Villans were not done and the ‘never say die’ attitude that O’Neill had instilled in them soon kicked in. Martin Laursen restored parity when he volleyed in Villa’s equaliser courtesy of a beautifully curled free-kick from Ashley Young.

The number of players was soon levelled up as well, as Ricardo Carvalho’s terrible two-footed lunge on Gabriel Agbonlahor resulted in a red card.

Both sides continued to go all out for victory and the home side looked certain to win this thrilling encounter when Ballack stroked home a wonderful free-kick in the 87th minute.

Amazingly, there was still time for O’Neill’s men to pull the game back level.

The Villans kept the ball alive in the box and Agbonlahor’s header was cleared off the line by Ashley Cole. The away side screamed for a penalty and, despite the pleading from Grant’s men a penalty was awarded, and Cole was sent off.

Villa legend Gareth Barry stepped up and showed great composure to earn Villa a much deserved point.

 

 

Venue: Stamford Bridge, London
Competition: Barclays Premiership
Date: 26th December 2007

Chelsea: Cech, Ferreira, Alex, Carvalho, Ashley Cole, Kalou, Essien, Lampard (Ballack 26), Joe Cole, Pizarro (Obi 85), Shevchenko (Wright-Phillips 82).

Subs Not Used: Hilario, Ben-Haim.

Aston Villa: Carson, Mellberg, Laursen, Knight, Bouma (Harewood 90), Maloney (Davies 46), Reo-Coker, Barry, Young, Carew (Moore 78), Agbonlahor.

Subs Not Used: Taylor, Gardner.

Referee: Phil Dowd

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