Mason Mount double and Arrizabalaga heroics ensure Chelsea sink Aston Villa | Premier League

The last thing Steven Gerrard needed was to encounter a goalkeeper who chose this occasion to produce the best performance of his Premier League career. Kepa Arrizabalaga has not had too many afternoons such as this over the past four years but he denied Aston Villa with an outstanding exhibition of his art.

Two first-half saves from Jacob Ramsey and Danny Ings took the breath away. Those were far from his only interventions and they meant Graham Potter, whose side put in the worst performance of his tenure to date, could hail a fifth successive win even if Chelsea hardly deserved it.

They prevailed because Villa, unable to apply the decisive touch at one end, self-destructed at the other. A glaring mistake from Tyrone Mings gave Mason Mount the opener on a plate; then Mings and Emiliano Martinez could both have done better around the second-half free-kick, albeit superbly executed, from which the same player killed proceedings off. Chelsea’s revival continues apace but the embattled Gerrard, who was jeered by a pocket of supporters as he walked down the tunnel after full‑time, saw the prospect of a transformative outcome slip away.

“I’m aware of it all but I have to accept it and do everything I can to try and change the way they feel at the moment,” Gerrard said of the disquiet among some fans whose patience is wearing perilously thin. They would have perked up considerably had an enterprising Villa, much the better side until they went two behind, converted their superiority into points.

Instead they face crucial games against Fulham and Brentford over the next week knowing there is little room for error; Gerrard surely needs a result against at least one of them if the unrest is not to reach a crescendo.

“I said to the players: ‘I know you’ll be frustrated and disappointed but, if you can replicate that [performance] at Fulham, I don’t think you’ll have any problems,’” he said.

Kepa Arrizabalaga of Chelsea makes a brilliant reflex save to deny Danny Ings and Aston Villa what looked a certain equaliser.
Kepa Arrizabalaga of Chelsea makes a brilliant reflex save to deny Danny Ings and Aston Villa what looked a certain equaliser. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Arrizabalaga’s reflexes were a driving force behind those emotions. The best of his work came during a dizzying 20-minute spell midway through the opening period when Chelsea should have found their early lead overhauled. His stop from Ramsey was extraordinary: he had just beaten away John McGinn’s drive and Ramsey, taking aim from the rebound, looked poised to crack it past him from 12 yards. Instead he plunged low to his right and somehow deflected the ball on to the post.

Just after the half-hour Leon Bailey checked back and crossed from the right for Ings, four yards out, to power a header that Arrizabalaga tipped over despite minimal time to respond. It was an equally good save and there were others in that blizzard of pressure, McGinn and Ings seeing angled drives repelled. When Villa contrived an effort Arrizabalaga could not reach, Bailey headed on to the top of the crossbar.

“Kepa has found a fantastic level today,” said Potter, who was careful to cushion his praise in a general appreciation of the camaraderie among Chelsea’s keepers. “He’s made brilliant saves that have kept us in the game and allowed us to win the points, so I’m really pleased for him.”

Chelsea scored with their first attack when Mings, misjudging the flight of the ball after Ramsey’s attempt to dispossess Ben Chilwell looped up into the air, horribly skewed a header straight into Mount’s path. The finish was confident but otherwise Chelsea looked lost.

Marc Cucurella had a horror show of a first half at left centre‑back before being replaced, Potter deploying Kalidou Koulibaly and César Azpilicueta at the interval to shore things up. Raheem Sterling’s selection at right wing-back in Reece James’s absence was an experiment curtailed during Villa’s purple patch; he was belatedly moved forward and, from a rare attack, curled a shot on to the bar.

“Villa made us suffer,” Potter said. But a fourth consecutive clean sheet was still the outcome and Mount’s set piece garnished it. Mings was again partly responsible, with a clumsy foul on him 25 yards out. The free-kick was well struck but Martinez paid the price for making a sidestep to his right, the ball wobbling leftward and arcing under his bar. Villa had been punctured and the final quarter was a non-event.

“I’m still in a little bit of disbelief that we haven’t scored at least a couple of goals,” Gerrard said. That tends to be a common refrain when a team are struggling. Villa remain 16th even if Gerrard felt a rejigged attack, which brought recalls for Ings and Bailey, answered the call for greater excitement and creativity.

In Chelsea’s case some of the latter is diminished when James is not around. Potter revealed that the right‑back, who sustained a knee injury in the win at Milan, will spend the next four weeks in a brace. That would appear to make his presence for England at the World Cup finals in Qatar decidedly unlikely. For now Chelsea are simply relieved that Arrizabalaga pulled off the impossible here.

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