Saturday, August 21, 1999 Published at 18:26 GMT 19:26 UK
Chelsea profit from own goal
Chris Sutton tries to stop Alan Thompson's progress
Chelsea 1-0 Aston Villa
A Ugo Ehiogu own goal gave the home side a fourth successive victory against Villa.
Villa boss John Gregory had wanted to show the rest of the world that his side were set for a more sustained challenge this year.
But again his hard-working side were not quite creative enough against one of the country's best teams.
And the defeat tends to support Ehiogu's own view that Villa have some way to go before they can think of a Champions League place.
As well as scoring for Chelsea, the defender lined with Manchester United this week had Villa's best chance of the match from a corner.
The home side, unusually starting with three Englishmen, brought Jody Morris into the starting line-up.
For the visitors another promising young midfielder Lee Hendrie was also given his first start this season, replacing Dutchman George Boateng.
The first half was scrappy, with five players going into the book, amid a zero tolerance policy from referee Neale Barry.
Gianfranco Zola, who scored from a free kick in this fixture last year, brought a fine save out of Villa's David James from a similar opportunity.
The little Italian also had a strong penalty claim against Ehiogu turned down, while Dan Petrescur shot over twice.
For Villa, new Welsh international call-up Mark Delaney produced a testing cross and Frank Leboeuf had to be quick when Alan Wright played through the quick Julian Joachim.
Meanwhile Ehiogu's powerful free header at a corner almost gave him a goal at the right end but Ed de Goey saved well.
Chelsea were better in the second period, while Villa lost their way.
Ehiogu put the ball in his own net seven minutes after the break, after the defender's own clearing header found Petrescu in space in the Villa penalty area.
The Romanian's fierce cross-shot was going just wide until it was diverted just inside James' right-hand post by the Villa man.
Villa's game had been a dogged defensive one until now, and strikers Joachim and Dion Dublin continued to be starved of service despite the need for an equaliser.
In fact a second Chelsea strike looked more likely - Gustavo Poyet came close with a diving header while Chris Sutton produced a shot that was more like a backpass to James.
Call for Merson
With some 20 minutes left manager John Gregory realised that his hard-working midfield was unlikely to prise open a defence containing two World Cup winners.
Paul Merson entered the fray in an attempt to finally give Dublin and Joachim something to work with.
But the ploy failed, and the activity on the bench was as interesting as the match itself as both managers made use of all three substitutions.
That included a debut for new Chelsea signing Gabriele Ambrosetti, while on the pitch Morris came closest to a second for the home side.
And Villa's best effort? A Merson shot that hit the upper tier of the Shed stand while still rising, and a brief amount of late pressure that never looked like breaking through.
Chelsea: De Goey, Ferrer, Leboeuf, Desailly, Babayaro, Petrescu, Wise, Morris, Poyet, Sutton, Zola. Subs: Hogh, Goldbaek, Ambrosetti, Flo, Cudicini.
Aston Villa: James, Ehiogu, Southgate, Calderwood, Delaney, Hendrie, Taylor, Thompson, Wright, Dublin, Joachim. Subs: Draper, Merson, Oakes, Barry, Stone.
Referee: N Barry (Scunthorpe)