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Chelsea cling on to top four finish despite shaky defeat to Aston Villa

Chelsea hung on to a top-four finish despite falling to a 2-1 defeat to Aston Villa on a dramatic final day of the Premier League season.

Chelsea went into the game with the race for Champions League qualification in their hands. They simply needed to win to confirm a third-placed finish, but they gave themselves an uphill climb after going two goals down.

However, they stayed in the top four thanks to Tottenham beating Leicester. Liverpool overtook them into third place, though, thanks to their win over Crystal Palace.

It means Chelsea will head into the Champions League final knowing they will be in the competition again next season. They may have been hoping for smoother preparation than this, though.

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Thomas Tuchel made just one change to his last lineup, with Mateo Kovacic coming in for the injured N’Golo Kante. Villa, meanwhile, were unchanged from their most recent match.

The game started at a lively tempo, with chances at either end. Ollie Watkins almost broke through for Villa, while Mason Mount had a half-chance for Chelsea on the volley.

There was excitement for the Villa fans when Bertrand Traore came in from the left wing, but he scuffed his shot.

At the other end, Mount had another effort, this time driving the ball into the palms of Emiliano Martinez.

Chelsea were having to take on more shots from outside the box and Timo Werner prompted a similarly comfortable save from Martinez a few minutes later.

Even when they did break into the Villa box, it was too crowded for them to really test the keeper. Christian Pulisic tried his luck with an overhead kick, for example, but it didn’t trouble Martinez.

Pulisic then had a much clearer chance when the ball dropped to him in the box. However, it bounced just before he shot and he subsequently skied it.

Traore caused trouble for Chelsea again when they allowed him to glide through the middle of the pitch. The Villa winger skipped a challenge from Jorginho, but his shot once again lacked verve.

It gave Villa some momentum, though, as John McGinn dispossessed Kovacic and curled a shot just wide.

And they found the breakthrough just before half-time, when Traore converted after a corner. The ball looped over the reach of Edouard Mendy to make it 1-0.

“Aston Villa have the lead! They’ve given Chelsea a problem of Champions League proportions!”#AVFC‘s Traore gives his side the lead against his former club

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Follow #AVLCHE here
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— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) May 23, 2021

Chelsea were losing their heads somewhat as the game began to break up a bit. That suited Villa more and Werner received a yellow card for a frustrated foul. Half-time could not have come soon enough for the visitors.

Tuchel made a change at the interval, with Kepa Arrizabalaga coming on for Mendy in goal. It seemed the Senegal international might have been feeling the effects of colliding with the post when trying to save Traore’s goal, which will be a concern ahead of the Champions League final.

Villa double lead before Chelsea fight back

Chelsea had the first chance of the second half, when Pulisic had an effort deflected just wide of the post. The winger’s shot was poor but the way it changed trajectory after hitting a Villa defender made it interesting.

Things went from bad to worse for Tuchel’s men though, when they gave away a penalty in the 50th minute. Jorginho took Traore down in the box to gift Villa a golden opportunity to double their lead.

Anwar El Ghazi took it and sent sub keeper Kepa the wrong way with a curled strike, making it 2-0.

“Villa finishing with a flourish!”

Jorginho clips #AVFC‘s Traore on the ankle as ref Stuart Attwell points to the spot.

El Ghazi then sends #CFC‘s Kepa the wrong way!

Watch live on SS Action
Follow #AVLCHE here
Download @SkySports app

— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) May 23, 2021

Chelsea needed to spark back into life and Mount tried to inspire them with a shot from outside the box. However, it went wide.

They had the ball in the back of the net just before the hour-mark, but it didn’t count. Cesar Azpilicueta was put through, and the ball ended up with Werner, who bundled home. However, his captain had been just offside, so the goal was ruled out after a VAR check upheld the linesman’s decision.

Chelsea did pull one back when Ben Chilwell sidefooted the ball in after sneaking in at the back-post. Martinez almost kept it out but goal-line technology proved the ball was over the line, restoring some hope for Tuchel with 20 minutes remaining.

There were then appeals for a penalty when Kai Havertz flicked the ball onto Tyrone Mings’ hand, but it was in a natural position.

Chilwell had another chance when a cross came his way, but Martinez kept it out as the clock ticked down.

Much like the first half, the end of the second half descended into turbulence for Chelsea. Azpilicueta was sent off for raising his hand to Jack Grealish as his frustrations came to the fore.

But with the final whistles blowing at the King Power and Anfield and the results going in Chelsea’s favour, they knew they were top-four finishers again despite their defeat.

Villa, meanwhile, already knew they would be finishing 11th, a significant improvement on last season.

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