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BBC Five Live's John Murray
reports from Villa Park
 real 14k

Chelsea manager Gianluca Vialli
"Despite playing away, we were totally in control of the game."
 real 14k

Sunday, 27 August, 2000, 16:56 GMT 17:56 UK
James gives Chelsea helping hand
Chelsea players celebrate Marcel Desailly's equaliser
Chelsea players celebrate Marcel Desailly's equaliser
Aston Villa 1-1 Chelsea

Aston Villa goalkeeper David James suffered another nightmare moment to hand Chelsea a point in a Villa Park stalemate.

Belgian new boy Luc Nilis made the perfect start to his Villa career with a spectacular volley to give John Gregory's side an early advantage.

But James, whose blunder handed Roberto Di Matteo the winner in last season's FA Cup Final, was the villain again when he missed a corner for Marcel Desailly to equalise in the first half.

In a match short on real quality, Villa will have been disappointed at failing to turn supremacy into a victory.

If we have pretensions to be champions we have to do better. I am happy to score but it did not bring us the victory we wanted
  Chelsea's Marcel Desailly
Chelsea boss Gianluca Vialli will have simply been happy to have left Villa Park with a point after their tame midweek surrender at Bradford City.

Vialli, however, will demand better of his expensive squad if they are to mount a meaningful title challenge.

And he will be angered at failing to claim all three points when Tore Andre Flo missed a glorious chance to score an injury time winner.

Both sides were forced to make changes as they attempted to cash in on the carelessness of potential title rivals Manchester United and Liverpool in squandering leads on Saturday.

One lapse in concentration cost us the match. The minute we scored we went on the back foot. Too many of my players started walking and we gave the ball away too cheaply. I feel it is two points lost
  Aston Villa manager John Gregory
Chelsea lost goalkeeper Ed de Goey when he injured a hamstring in the warm up.

He was replaced by Italian Carlo Cudicini for only his second league appearance since arriving at Stamford Bridge.

Villa boss Gregory lost his showpiece summer signing David Ginola with a training injury, with Nilis coming in for his Premiership debut.

And they experienced contrasting fortunes after ten minutes when Nilis, a Bosman signing from PSV Eindhoven, opened the scoring with a brilliant left foot volley.

He flicked a pass from Alan Wright around the recalled Frank Leboeuf, and left Cudicini with no chance with a spectacular finish into the top corner.

Nilis was giving Lebouef a torrid time, and he fooled the French defender again to test Cudicini at the near post.

Luc Nilis is mobbed after his spectacular Villa opener
Luc Nilis is mobbed after his spectacular Villa opener
Vialli's problems increased after 25 minutes when Croatian summer signing Mario Stanic limped off after appearing to twist a knee attempting a turn on the right wing.

Chelsea, however, were not without a threat of their own and goalkeeper James was fortunate to escape with a weak punch as he fought off the attentions of Christian Panucci and Jimmy Floyd Hasslebaink.

It is disappointing because we pride ourselves on our defending. It has been a difficult period. I have made my position clear, but while I am at Aston Villa I will give everything for them
  Aston Villa captain Gareth Southgate
It was a brief reprieve for James, who was badly at fault for Chelsea's equaliser, very much against the run of play after 29 minutes.

He made no impression in his attempt to claim a Dennis Wise corner, and Desailly headed comfortably home with James stranded.

Flo then shrugged off the attentions of Turkish international Alpay to burst into the box, but his ambitious effort on goal curled well wide.

Gareth Southgate then showed why he has been a target of Chelsea boss Vialli - and now reportedly of Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger as well - with a well-timed block just inside the area as Flo shaped to shoot.

Villa continued to dominate both possession and territory in the second half, but boss Gregory will have been frustrated at their lack of threat.

Lee Hendrie produced a brilliant save from Cudicini, but otherwise he had been well protected by his defenders.

I felt a draw was a fair result, although we were the better team in the second half. We have had a difficult week with all the criticism. It is not easy when it happens, but we could have won this match in the end
  Chelsea manager Gianluca Vialli
Gregory made a change with 20 minutes left, replacing the tiring Nilis with Julian Joachim, who was roundly jeered by Villa fans as he continues to demand a move away from the club.

And Chelsea made a change of their own with fourteen minutes left, replacing the ineffective Hasselbaink with Eidur Gudjohnsen.

James made some amends for his earlier error in the final ten minutes by turning a Roberto Di Matteo drive over the top.

Chelsea should have won in injury time when Flo raced clear on James, but his over-elaborate finish floated wastefully wide.

Aston Villa: James, Wright, Southgate, Boateng, Dublin, Merson, Alpay, Barry, Hendrie, Stone, L. Nilis. Subs: Ehiogu, Taylor, Joachim, Samuel, Enckelman.

Chelsea: Cudicini, Panucci, Babayaro, Leboeuf, Desailly, Poyet, Hasselbaink, Wise, Stanic, Di Matteo, Flo. Subs: Morris, Gudjohnsen, Cudicini, Zola, Thome.

Referee: P Durkin (Dorset).

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