Aston Villa leapfrog Chelsea into top half of Premier League
Aston Villa's Scottish midfielder John McGinn (R) celebrates after scoring his team second goal during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge in London on April 1, 2023. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)

LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP)— Aston Villa climbed above Chelsea and into the top half of the Premier League table with a 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Ollie Watkins gave Villa an early lead before a superb strike by John McGinn, fresh from starring in Scotland's shock Euro 2024 win over Spain, made it 2-0 in the 56th minute.

Defeat saw Chelsea drop into the bottom half of the table to increase the pressure on Blues manager Graham Potter, with the London club booed off the field by their own supporters at full-time.

This was Villa's fifth away win since Unai Emery became manager of the Birmingham club in October and they have now won 16 points on the road, a tally equalled only by champions Manchester City in that period.

All 10 of Chelsea's league wins this season have come against bottom-half opponents, but this reverse meant they drop into 11th place in the table.

Villa moved up into ninth, one point off Liverpool in eighth, and just two points off a European place.

Emery's men almost gifted Chelsea the lead soon after kick-off when goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez rolled the ball short to Boubacar Kamara, who was dispossessed by Mykhailo Mudryk.

The Ukrainian, however, was denied by Martinez when one-on-one with the Argentina World Cup-winner.

Villa responded quickly, Watkins pulling a shot wide before McGinn hit the crossbar in the 15th minute with a curling shot.

But the in-form Watkins broke the deadlock in the 18th minute, capitalising on a slack header from Marc Cucurella before lobbing the ball over Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Martinez preserved Villa's lead by diving low to his left to deny Kai Havertz.

Chelsea were on top, playing attractive and attacking football but with no goals to show for their efforts.

In the match as a whole, Villa only had five shots on target to Chelsea's 27 but, significantly, they made two of them count.

Villa captain McGinn doubled the lead in style with a well-struck curling effort from 25 yards out.

Chelsea worked hard but rarely threatened a goal, with the one consolation for the Blues the sight of defender N'Golo Kante, a 2018 World Cup winner with France, coming off the bench in the 57th minute as he made his first senior appearance for the Blues under Potter, having been sidelined since August.

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