KENYA BROWN - Tuesday, June 23, 2020
Christian Pulisic came to Chelsea's rescue as he came off the bench to score a goal in their comeback win over Aston Villa in the return to action of the English Premier League.
Aston Villa 1-2 Chelsea
Goals from Christian Pulisic and Olivier Giroud helped Chelsea to power themselves past Aston Villa at Villa Park to put them in a strong position to maintain a Champions League spot.
Pulisic's entrance into the game was much-needed as he went on to play 35 minutes while Indiana Vassilev watched all of the action from the bench for Villa.
The unexpected break due to the Covid-19 pandemic brought Chelsea coach Frank Lampard some good fortune as several of his players were allowed to fully recover from various injuries to make their returns to the first team. Pulisic, who had gone down with an abductor injury, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek were two notable players out during the period.
Chelsea dominated their relegation-threatened opponents for a majority of the game, but all of that possession meant nothing as they could not find a goal in the first half.
However, Aston Villa did as they took the lead in the 43rd minute. Douglas Luiz's cross into the area gave Chelsea problems as Kepa could only parry the ball away. That did little to remove the danger as Kortney Hause pounced on the loose ball to stick it in the back of the net.
The visitors were in need of something to happen as they entered the second half. Cometh the hour, cometh the man, as Pulisic made his presence known on the hour-mark as he scored the equalizer. Cesar Azpilicueta's cross from the right side passed the crowded six-yard box and fell into the path of the American who got enough of his left foot on the ball to get it past Villa goalkeeper Orjan Nyland.
It wasn't the best of touches from the 21-year-old, and he admitted it after the game, but it was the goal that Chelsea needed to get themselves in the game.
The Blues kept the momentum going and they took the lead two minutes later when Giroud collected the pass from Azpilicueta and the Frenchman struck the ball home off a deflection.
A good win for Chelsea and a welcome return for Pulisic who received the praise of Lampard after the game. However, they still need a lot of work when it comes to finishing off teams.
Chelsea maintains their hold on fourth place in the standings as they now have 51 points, five points clear of Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
In other action from the Premier League, DeAndre Yedlin made his 100th appearance in the league as he played the final two minutes in Newcastle United's 3-0 win over Sheffield United.
In the Championship, Tim Ream and Fulham were no match for fellow promotion chasers Brentford as they succumbed to a 2-0 defeat.
Antonee Robinson made his return to the field following treatment for an irregular heart rhythm as he helped Wigan Athletic to a 2-0 win over Huddersfield Town to give their survival hopes a boost.
Duane Holmes made his return to the starting line-up for Derby County in their 3-2 victory over Millwall. The Rams are still very much in the promotion playoff hunt as they now sit three points back from sixth place.
Cameron Carter-Vickers had a strong outing for Luton Town as they shared the points with Preston North End following a 1-1 tie. The team is at the bottom of the standings, but have a realistic shot of pulling themselves out of the relegation zone.