Having gone undefeated over their past four games in all competitions, Chelsea failed to make it five with a loss to Aston Villa.
Chelsea slipped to a first loss in five games as goals for Ollie Watkins and John McGinn helped Aston Villa seal a 2-0 win in the Premier League on Saturday.
Watkins stunned the hosts early on with a lobbed finish in the first half before his captain fired home a spectacular long-range effort near the hour mark.
The defeat left Graham Potter’s previously resurgent hosts stuttering at Stamford Bridge, five points off the top seven and potential European qualification.
For Unai Emery’s visitors, however, the result lifts them above their opponents and keeps them inside thanks to the outside shout of a surprise continental berth.
Chelsea were riding their luck when McGinn rattled the crossbar with a fine volley, but they were unlucky in the 18th minute.
A mix-up between Marco Cucurella and Kalida Koulibaly allowed Watkins to dive in and finish off a flustered Kepa.
Ben Chilwell thought he had a first-half equalizer in injury time when his header beat Emiliano Martinez at the left-hand post, but referee Andy Madley blew the whistle for a shove on Ashley Young in the set-piece.
Things got worse for the Blues in the 56th minute when they failed to clear a corner and McGinn punished them with a sensational strike across a packed box to double the deficit.
The visitors turned to N’Golo Kante, making his first appearance since last August, in a bid to drag them back into contention.
Yet Villa refused to sit back and watch this continue to challenge their increasingly depleted opponents until the final whistle sealed an impressive triumph.
Chelsea player ratings (3-4-3)
GK: Kepa Arrizabalaga – 4/10 – Came too far off his line and invited Watkins to chip the ball in for the opener. Thwarted by another strike from range.
CB: Reece James – 6/10 – Made a massive tackle to stop Ramsey midway through the first half, but felt wasted in this defensive role.
CB: Kalidou Koulibaly – 3/10 – Blasted by Chilwell for some awful early passes. On a planet of his own to allow Watkins a number of sights of goal.
CB: Marc Cucurella – 3/10 – The frustrating side of Cucurella was back. Offered nothing in attack and made the poor header for the opener.
RM: Ruben Loftus-Cheek – 5/10 – Involved in a whole lot but guilty of some underwhelming moves in the final third.
CM: Enzo Fernandez – 6/10 – Some lovely passes to try and bring Chelsea’s wing-backs into the game.
CM: Mateo Kovacic – 5/10 – One of those games which had fans questioning what Kovacic actually offers. Involved a lot without ever really doing anything.
LM: Ben Chilwell – 6/10 – Chelsea’s most dangerous player. Unfortunate to see his header ruled out.
RW: Kai Havertz – 5/10 – Buzzed around without ever really offering anything of note.
ST: Joao Felix – 5/10 – Had the odd excellent moment but didn’t do enough.
LW: Mykhailo Mudryk – 2/10 – Shocking in front of goal. Really clumsy on the ball and looked terrified whenever he was asked to score a goal.
Noni Madueke (57′ for Loftus-Cheek) – 5/10 – A few nice touches but largely uninspiring.
N’Golo Kante (57′ for Mudryk) – 6/10 – Probably Chelsea’s second-best attacker after Chilwell, which speaks volumes.
Conor Gallagher (80′ for Kovacic) – 5/10 – Limited time to get involved.
Christian Pulisic (80′ for Cucurella) – 5/10 – Very few meaningful touches.
Graham Potter – 2/10 – Predictable and boring. Playing James at centre-back was wrong and preferring Cucurella over Benoit Badiashile was just as bad. Fans were chanting for him to be sacked – what’s Julian Nagelsmann up to these days?
Aston Villa player ratings (4-4-2)
GK: Emiliano Martinez – 8/10 – A number of impressive saves when Chelsea threatened to equalise.
RB: Ashley Young – 5/10 – Didn’t really enjoy trying to keep up with Chilwell.
CB: Ezri Konsa – 7/10 – Some unconvincing passes but made up for it with some brilliant defensive plays.
CB: Tyrone Mings – 6/10 – A little fortunate to avoid an early booking in a nervy first half. Gave possession away a few too many times but thankfully was not made to pay.
LB: Alex Moreno – 7/10 – A good battle with Loftus-Cheek. Won some and lost some but usually came out on top.
RM: John McGinn – 8/10 – A slow first half but dominant after the break. A sensational goal as well.
CM: Douglas Luiz – 7/10 – Physically dominant and technically impressive. Won the midfield battle.
CM: Boubacar Kamara – 5/10 – Injured himself with a cynical early challenge and was hooked at the break.
LM: Jacob Ramsey – 7/10 – An industrious performance. Could’ve been more dangerous on the counter but did his best work on the other side of the ball.
ST: Emiliano Buendia – 5/10 – A quiet outing as he was forced to do more defending than attacking.
ST: Ollie Watkins – 7/10 – Fed off scraps and absolutely loved it. Won his battles with Koulibaly and took his goal very well.
Calum Chambers (46′ for Kamara) – 7/10 – An excellent 45 minutes. Relished the defensive battle.
Leon Bailey (76′ for Buendia) – 5/10 – Lively but not really involved.
Leander Dendoncker (87′ for Luiz) – N/A
Lucas Digne (89′ for Moreno) – N/A
Unai Emery – 7/10 – Dull and defensive but you can’t argue with the results. This is what Emery wanted and it’s what he got.
Player of the match – John McGinn (Aston Villa)
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