Chelsea boost their Champions League chances with win at struggling Villa
Chelsea boosted their hopes of Champions League qualification after quick-fire goals from Christian Pulisic and Olivier Giroud earned a 2-1 comeback success at struggling Aston Villa.
Veteran striker Giroud claimed the Blues’ second-half winner at Villa Park with a deflected finish, less than two minutes after substitute Pulisic had levelled.
Beleaguered Villa had been on track to climb out of the Premier League relegation zone following Kortney Hause’s maiden top-flight strike shortly before the break.
Dean Smith’s men remain a single point from safety but have an inferior goal difference to their relegation rivals after their winless league run stretched to six league matches.
Chelsea’s first top-flight away victory of 2020, in Frank Lampard’s 100th game as a manager, moves them five points clear of fifth-placed Manchester United and to within three points of third-placed Leicester.
After Hause’s scruffy 43rd-minute opener, United States international Pulisic made an instant impact by crashing home a half-volley via the underside of the crossbar only five minutes after coming off the bench before Frenchman Giroud swivelled to benefit from a ricochet off Villa midfielder Conor Hourihane moments later.
Earlier on Sunday, Joelinton scored only his second Premier League goal as Sheffield United’s European aspirations were damaged by a resounding 3-0 loss to Newcastle.
The £40million Magpies striker completed the scoring at St James’ Park by ending a 300-day drought stretching back to August after second-half strikes from Allan Saint-Maximin and Matt Ritchie put the 10-man Blades on course for defeat.
Chris Wilder’s visitors played the final 40 minutes a man down following John Egan’s dismissal for a second bookable offence when the game was still goalless.
Victory for the mid-table hosts extinguishes any lingering relegation fears, while the Blades remain seventh, two points adrift of fifth position.