Andreas Weimann was at the heart of everything Aston Villa did well at Griffin Park earlier this season as Chelsea crashed to a 4-0 loss to open the campaign. In the rematch on Monday night, he was at it again, notching twice to keep his team at the top of the Premier Reserve League South on a disappointing night for Steve Holland’s boys, who will have hoped for better with such a strong team available.
With only Patrick van Aanholt and Jack Cork departing on loans since the last fixture against Wolves, Holland was able to name another experienced line-up. Nemanja Matic, Gael Kakuta and Fabio Borini all came down from the first team, with Jacob Mellis joining captain Liam Bridcutt in midfield. Rhys Taylor continued in goal with Kenny Strickland getting another chance at Reserve level, partnering Carl Magnay in central defence. Villa chose to use the fixture to give much needed playing time to the duo of Wilfried Bouma and Curtis Davies, who have been suffering with long-term injuries. They were joined by Nathan Delfouneso and Ciaran Clark in a strong team featuring a smattering of first team talent.
In front of not many at Villa Park, in cold temperatures, the game got off to a fiery start and two goals in the first ten minutes warmed everybody up. The Blues could’ve had themselves a lead inside the first five minutes when Conor Clifford, so impressive in last week’s FA Youth Cup win over Portsmouth, unleashed another long range effort from his repertoire. It came crashing back off the crossbar, with the slightest of touches from goalkeeper David Bevan earning praise for helping keep it out. Unfortunately, it meant Villa took the lead after nine minutes through the in-form Austrian forward Andreas Weimann. Some neat approach play saw Delfouneso flick the ball into his path, and he took it on to beat Rhys Taylor high into the top corner. Weimann had scored twice at Griffin Park as Villa took the Blues apart back in August, and was right back in the thick of things again.
The lead lasted barely a minute. Chelsea responded well and earned a corner which initially came to nothing, but the attack continued and ended with Strickland getting onto the end of a pass and keeping his cool to slot past Bevan and level the scores. It was an equaliser from an unlikely source but one that was crucial to keeping the visitors in the game, and a great moment for a youngster who has really impressed this season, against most expectations.
The game settled down after a frantic opening quarter hour, with Chelsea comfortable in possession but merely probing without much penetration. The hosts were at ease soaking it up and breaking with pace and incisiveness, but clear cut chances were few and far between. There were half chances for Mellis and Borini from Chelsea’s point of view, with the latter going close to getting onto the end of a cross with his head, but the first half was just playing itself to a level interval. Clark went close in first half stoppage time for the Villains with a header which looped onto Taylor’s bar, whilst the Welshman made the save of the half in diverting Davies’ powerful header for a corner to ensure the teams went into the warmth of the dressing rooms on par at the break.
Indications from Chelsea pre-match hinted at two or three players heading straight to Hull to join up with the first team squad ahead of tomorrow’s first team fixture, and two substitutions duly arrived in the first ten minutes of the second period. Marko Mitrovic and Josh McEachran entered the fray to allow Borini and Matic to rest up ahead of likely berths on Carlo Ancelotti’s bench in 24 hours, but Holland’s charges weren’t able to test the home defence in the opening stages after the restart and instead found themselves trailing just before the hour mark.
Villa earned a corner attacking their famous Holte End which was initially cleared, but Jonathan Hogg had not given up on it. He crossed, Davies flicked it back on and Clark leapt to score a quite stunning overhead kick, leaving Taylor with no chance. Clark has scored against the Blues’ reserve team before and was in scoring form once more to leave an uphill task facing Chelsea if they were to get anything from the game.
When they went forward it was Nikki Ahamed who was having the best of the ball, looking dangerous every time he crossed the halfway line, but nothing really clear opened up for the team. Kakuta’s vision and craft opened up space for Mellis, but he put his shot painfully wide when the target was so inviting to hit. At the other end a break of lightning speed saw Delfouneso miss out on playing Weimann in as the last man by mere inches, with Chelsea stretched, looking to level the scores.
Free kicks followed at both ends with ten minutes remaining, but whilst Chelsea struggled to make theirs count after an elaborate routine fell apart in hapless fashion, Davies almost put the game to bed, only being denied a goal by a sharp stop by Welshman Taylor. Villa were comfortable in the closing stages with only Mellis able to threaten the home goal with a well-struck half volley, but Bevan was equal to the task. The hosts were able to make it safe in the final minutes as Weimann scored his second of the night, crossing for Hogg and tapping in the return cross from close range to prove the Blues’ downfall once again.
Team: Taylor, Ahamed, Strickland, Magnay, Gordon, Bridcutt (c) (Philliskirk 88), C.Clifford, Matic (McEachran 60), Mellis, Kakuta, Borini (Mitrovic 55)
Goals: Strickland ’10