Nakamba stars in 50th Villa appearance
Marvelous Nakamba chose his 50th appearance for Aston Villa to produce a dominant show as they beat UEFA Champions League finalists Chelsea 2-1 in their final English Premiership match in front of 10 000 fans at Villa Park yesterday.
Despite the loss, the Blues still qualified for the Champions League after Leicester slumped to a 2-4 home defeat at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur.
The Zimbabwe international was given the highest rating, by the Birmingham Live Villa specialist correspondent, Ashley Preece, after another impressive show.
“Very proud to make my 50th appearance for this great club. Excellent result today to end the season on a high,’’ said Nakamba.
“Thanks to our amazing fans for their continuous support.’’
It was party time in Aston last night as Aston Villa put on a real show to beat one of the strongest sides in the Premiership.
It was claret and blue carnival throughout in B6 as supporters lapped up the atmosphere as the turnstiles opened for the first time in more than 15 months.
To the action and it was all Chelsea to begin with as the away side looked to cement their Champions League place for next season.
England boss Gareth Southgate was in the house and, early on, it was Mason Mount who pulled the strings.
The Chelsea playmaker was, though, guilty of spurning Chelsea’s biggest chance from 12 yards out on the 24-minute mark as he sent his left-footed volley into the lower Holte.
Thomas Tuchel’s Blues were, in truth, toothless whenever the ball came into box and it was Bertrand Traore and who showed the visitors how it was done after he fired home a well-worked corner kick to put Villa ahead.
Villa Park erupted as fans witness their first live goal in 462 days with Traore peeling off Chelsea’s ball-watching defenders to scuff home in off the crossbar from Matt Targett’s cut-back from the corner.
Villa were home and hosed at the break after being given a standing ovation for their shift and, just seven minutes after the restart, supporters were up celebrating once again as Traore was tripped by Jorginho inside the box.
Up stepped Anwar El Ghazi who slammed home his 10th Premier League goal of the season from 12 yards out.
Knowing they needed to up it, Tuchel brought on £108 million worth of talent in Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech, and it was the latter who helped to work Chelsea’s goal back as the Moroccan played a one-two with Christian Pulisic before the American found Ben Chilwell at the back post.
With the three points in sight, it was Villa who had Martinez to thank at the death as the Argentinian sprung himself out to deny Chilwell’s well-struck effort from Ziyech’s lofted cross.
The visitors simply lost their heads after that as captain Cesar Azpilicueta hit Jack Grealish with a flailing arm as referee Stuart Atwell sent the Spaniard off.
In the end, Villa held on for a sweet, sweet victory as Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline blared out at the final whistle, much to the delight of the excited and buzzing fanbase.
Here’s how we rated some of the Villa players after a superb 2-1 win over Chelsea:
Marvelous Nakamba: In for his 50th appearance at Villa since his summer arrival in 2019, with Nakamba in alongside John McGinn for the second-successive match.
The Zimbabwean put in a brilliant and brave block to thwart Mount early on and remained disciplined throughout.
Nakamba put in a string of body-on-the-line challenges and last-ditch tackles as he kept Chelsea’s talented midfield and attack at bay. Loved his work today in midfield and boy did he cover some ground. Superb. Star man.
Ranking 9 out of 10
Emiliano Martinez: Martinez wins the popularity contest as Villa’s new fans’ favourite.
The Argentinian was given a huge welcome for his warm-up while, in-game, he claimed a string of tame efforts, much to the delight of the Holte End behind him. Martinez has played every single minute of every game this season.
A record 16th clean sheet went by, though, as Chilwell scored at the far post with 20 left.
Ranking – 9 out of 10
Ezri Konsa: In at right-back once more and held his own against Chelsea’s attack who looked to play down both channels. Konsa had Chilwell, Mount and Werner to deal with at times but he remained switched on and won his battles. It was another classy performance once again, though he will feel disappointed at Chilwell sneaking in to volley home one back for Chelsea.
Ranking – 8 out of 10.
Bertrand Traore: Traore soon got going after a poor start and appeared to feed off the crowd when he sent his first shot at Mendy’s goal which went just narrowly wide. After switching to the right side, Traore skinned James and Thiago Silva before getting a shot off again.
It was soon third time lucky, though, as the enigmatic winger peeled off Chelsea’s ball-watching defence to scuff home his effort which pinged into the top corner via the underside of the bar to put Villa ahead just before half-time.
Traore was tripped for Villa’s second after he got the better of Jorginho. He enjoyed himself out there – and so did the supporters who witnessed him for the first time. He’s Villa’s entertainer.
Ranking — 8 out of 10 — The Herald/BimringhamLive