Watch: A Boxing Day clash to remember – Chelsea 4-4 Aston Villa, 2007
By Matt Farr
Fresh from their festive celebrations, spirits are high as football returns to take centre-stage on one of the most anticipated days in the entire footballing calendar, Boxing Day.
It is a memorable occasion that continues to provide endless entertainment, including goals, controversy, and plenty drama.
There have been some quite remarkable Boxing Day clashes over the years, and Football Insider takes a deeper look at one particular clash that lives long in the memory.
On this day in 2007, Chelsea and Aston Villa played out an incredible 4-4 draw at Villa Park, a tie that can only be described as an epic, holiday classic.
Under Avram Grant, Chelsea had not quite been able to retain their dominant status from the Jose Mourinho-era, and it showed in their performance against a spirited Aston Villa side. The Blues were second-best, and were very lucky to come away with a point.
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Chelsea made a sloppy start to the game, and deservedly went behind to Shaun Maloney’s 15th-minute strike. Villa continued to create chances, and Chelsea’s day continued to get from bad to worse when Frank Lampard was forced off with an injury just 10 minutes after going behind.
Then Maloney piled further misery on the home side with his second goal of the game, courtesy of a blunder by Petr Cech.
Villa looked set to cruise to victory against a well below-par Chelsea side; however, things were quickly about to change.
Deep into stoppage-time in the first-half, Villa defender Zat Knight was shown a straight red card for bringing down Michael Ballack in the box. Andriy Shevchenko then halved the deficit with a coolly-taken penalty.
From that moment, the complexion of the game was turned on its head. Chelsea began the second-half in the ascendency, and Shevchenko rewarded them with a second-goal to draw them level just five minutes after the restart.
Aston Villa simply couldn’t cope with Chelsea’s attacking onslaught in the second period, and Brazilian defender Alex put the home side ahead in the 65th minute – after several wasted opportunities from Salomon Kalou and Ballack.
Having squandered their lead, Villa did not give up, though, and continued their fight to regain their grip on the game. That Villa fightback triggered one of the most entertaining finishes to a Premier League game in recent history.
Martin Laursen brought Villa back level with 20 minutes of normal time remaining, guiding Ashley Young’s free-kick superbly past Cech in the Chelsea goal.
A moment of madness then saw Ricardo Carvalho sent-off for a two-footed challenge on Gabriel Agbonlahor, making it 10-a-side.
Chelsea thought they’d won it when Ballack hit the back of the net in the 88th minute, but astonishingly, there was yet another twist in the tale.
Ashley Cole gifted Villa a penalty in the dying moments, when he cleared Agbonlahor’s goal-bound effort off the line with his hand, and Phil Dowd pointed to the spot. To make matters worse for Chelsea, Cole was also shown a red-card for the offence – the third of the game.
It was then up to midfielder Gareth Barry to save the day, and he did just that, slotting past Cech to hand Villa a much-deserved point.
Villa went on to finish the season in 7th-place, while Chelsea missed out to Manchester United on the Premier League title by two points. How things might have been different had Chelsea not squandered their lead that day.
In other Aston Villa news, current boss Steve Bruce is plotting a January move for this Championship star.