London, December 29
Not even another goal from talisman Olivier Giroud could give Chelsea coach Frank Lampard the change in fortune he needs, as his team drew 1-1 with Aston Villa in the Premier League.
That makes it just one win in the past five games for Lampard, who recruited heavily during the summer transfer window to mount a title challenge yet still seems unsure what his best side is.
Sixth-placed Chelsea are six points behind leaders Liverpool, having played one game more than the defending champions.
“This is our tough period at the moment, and we have to fight for it and we’ll be stronger for it,” Lampard said on Monday after the game.
“I thought we deserved to win the game, but we didn’t and we continue to go through a difficult patch.”
Giroud’s goals late last season inspired Chelsea to secure a place in this season’s Champions League and vindicated Lampard’s decision to give the veteran France forward a run of games. After starting Tammy Abraham in the past two league outings, he went for Giroud this time and the Frenchman put Chelsea ahead with an excellent diving header from Ben Chilwell’s cross in the 34th minute.
“The attitude of the team was good,” Lampard said.
“I saw some really good signs tonight that I liked.”
But Villa showed their resilient streak to level through Anwar El Ghazi in the 50th minute and create further chances, with midfielder John McGinn’s superb 25-minute strike rattling the crossbar in the 69th minute.
Both sides are level on points with tough games coming up.
Fifth-placed Villa, who lead Chelsea on goal difference but have played two less games, travel to play Manchester United on Friday while Chelsea are set to host Manchester City on Sunday.
That game could yet be in doubt, however, because Monday’s match between Everton and City was called off amid City’s growing coronavirus outbreak, which forced the team to close its training ground.
This allowed Leicester to jump above Everton and into second place on goal difference, after scraping a 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace thanks to a fine equaliser from Harvey Barnes in the 85th.
Leicester trailed 1-0 after Wilfried Zaha’s 58th minute goal and then almost won the match with the last attack of the game at Selhurst Park.
But midfielder Ayoze Perez sliced a difficult chance over with prolific striker Jamie Vardy so close to reaching the ball before him.
“I thought after we conceded the goal, some of our play, the speed of our game, was really good,” Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers said.
“We end up frustrated that we haven’t won the game.”
But Rodgers may rue starting with Vardy on the bench. His replacement Kelechi Iheanacho had a penalty saved by goalkeeper Vicente Guaita in the 20th minute and then missed a free header from close range later in the game. Those misses proved costly when Palace opened the scoring with Zaha starting and finishing a move which Leicester struggled to read despite only two Palace players being involved. — AP
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