Chelsea and Aston Villa set for FA Cup replay after goalless stalemate at Stamford Bridge


Chelsea and Aston Villa draw, but both might feel a bit of a setback. They have to play a replay that neither will have wanted. It’s difficult not to think an already flat weekend for the FA Cup wouldn’t have benefitted from ending this on the night and at least going to the potential excitement of penalties. It instead just goes on, a bit like much of this 0-0.

That’s a little harsh given the opening spell genuinely looked like it might offer a bit of a helter-skelter FA Cup tie. Neither side quickly got a goal that counted, though, and it meant the game as a whole never really got so vibrant again.

Villa did have the ball in the net through Douglas Luiz but it was ruled out for handball. The score was probably merited, given both had spells of superiority.

In general, and in terms of what matters most give the main priority these days is by far the Premier League, there was a bit of a levelling out. Villa look like they have slightly slipped from the superb level they showed for the first few months of this season, although they had been drastically overperforming.

Chelsea have improved, but there are still familiar issues. Basically, they both looked like teams there or thereabouts as regards the European places.

The 20 minutes or so after Douglas Luiz’s disallowed goal was one of Chelsea’s better spells of recent weeks. They were pressing Villa sharply and forcing a lot of breaking ball around the box.

Douglas Luiz scored for Villa but his goal was ruled out for handball (AP)
Douglas Luiz scored for Villa but his goal was ruled out for handball (AP)

Again, however, the issue was the finishing. Or at least part of it. Martinez made a series of superb stops, but it became far to ask why Chelsea forwards didn’t vary their finishing.

Noni Madueke and Cole Palmer - on three separate occasions - looked to be put through only to try and hit low and hard. It was the same shot every time. It led to the same save every time.

Martinez spread himself and got a leg on it. Randal Kolo Muani knows that all too well from the last minute of extra-time from the World Cup final.

Chelsea maybe could have been a bit more creative, although this was at least a better sign as regards their general attacking. They for a long time felt more energetic, in the way Pochettino would want.

If it gets to the point where a finisher is all that is missing they have at least made considerable progress from recent performances.

They could still do with more end product from elsewhere.

Cole Palmer couldn’t find the target for Chelsea as a false-nine (PA)
Cole Palmer couldn’t find the target for Chelsea as a false-nine (PA)

Palmer was as wasteful in the false nine position as he was in the first leg of the League Cup against Middlesbrough but that is somewhat inevitable. He’s still a young player developing, thrust into regular first-team action for the first time in his career.

Palmer is highly unlikely to be the finished article. There is going to be inconsistency. He’s carrying an awful lot of responsibility. That is where more might be expected of Raheem Sterling, who wasn’t quite as effective as recent performances.

Villa were initially struggling with Chelsea’s pressing but began to find some of the form that has characterised their campaign so far. Ollie Watkins almost single-handedly turned it all with a brilliant turn in midfield that sent Matty Cash through.

That came close to bringing the first goal, only for Djordje Petrovic to push it away. Ezri Konza then went tantalisingly close in shaving the post after the goalkeeper had this time punched the ball into the air, before Thiago Silva just about prevented John McGinn clipping the ball in.

Villa were the team that seemed more concerned with avoiding a replay, which is perhaps natural when they are the club that have European football to go back to.

That might explain why they were more frenetic towards the end - but not quite enough.