Mini match report
Aston Villa battled to a resolute 1-1 draw at Chelsea to continue their momentum over Christmas.
Olivier Giroud had his first-half header cancelled out by the man in form, Anwar El Ghazi, who side-footed past Edouard Mendy at the back stick five minutes after the restart.
Frank Lampard’s side continued to press and probe with the Blues having the luxury of making six changes to their starting XI – not to mention bringing on £120 million worth of talent in the second half.
However, Dean Smith’s dogged Villa kept them at bay and recorded a well-earned draw at Stamford Bridge which sees them rise stay fifth in the Premier League table.
Frank Lampard: “They’re a tough opponent, but we had really good chances.
“I think there was a handball before the goal right next to the linesman. When you’re having a tough moment like we are, sometimes that goes against you. That last bit wasn’t quite there today because we haven’t got the rub of the green at the minute.
“The response was exactly right other than the win. We had a couple of little chances. It felt like the pressure was coming from us. This is our tough period at the moment. We have to fight for it and we’ll be stronger for it.”
Dean Smith: “It’s tough, turning it round, but I trust the players,” he said. “I asked every one of them today whether they were ready to go again and they looked me in the eye and told me they were.
“I think it’s a big thing to have that trust with them and they’ve gone and proved that today. It is tough and we’ve had to battle at times today. I thought there were spells of pressure from both teams.
“You’ve got to be organised when you come here. You look at the players they’ve got and the bench they’ve got and it’s going to be a tough game defensively.”
Triple boost for United
Captain Jack Grealish, left-back Matt Targett and midfielder John McGinn are all available to Dean Smith for Friday’s match with Manchester United.
The trio are walking the disciplinary tightrope with four cautions from Villa’s opening 14 matches but all of them avoided going into the referee’s book at Chelsea last night.
The suspension rule for five bookings will reset after Villa play 19 Premier League games with the clash at United bringing up Villa’s 15th this season. Smith’s side have United, Spurs, Everton and Burnley coming up prior to the yellow card limits resetting.
In our daily Aston Villa bulletin, we’ll be bringing you the latest breaking news, transfer features and comment pieces, as well as the key talking points for fans.
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McGinn earns praise from fans
Thomas White: “It is absolutely unbelievable how underrated John McGinn is. He is absolutely amazing.”
Myles Osbourne: “Such a pleasure to see McGinn back to his best.”
@Lincolnclarets: “I said from day dot that McGinn is our key player this season. If he plays well, we play well. Blessed to have him.”