Soccer-Chelsea squeeze into Champions League despite defeat at Villa

·3-min read
Premier League - Aston Villa v Chelsea

BIRMINGHAM, England (Reuters) -Chelsea qualified for the Champions League despite losing 2-1 at Aston Villa in the Premier League on Sunday as they squeezed Leicester City out of a top-four spot by one point.

Chelsea, who had Ben Chilwell on the scoresheet in reply to goals by Bertrand Traore and an Anwar El Ghazi penalty, had to thank London rivals Spurs for beating Leicester 4-2 away.

Thomas Tuchel's side finished in fourth place on 67 points, with the Foxes in fifth on 66 after 38 games.

"We're in the Champions League next season so we have to be happy," Chilwell said. "We managed to secure top four - not how we would have wanted today.

"It's not down to us, it's down to Spurs, but we are through to the top four and that’s the main thing."

Chelsea meet Premier League champions Manchester City in the Champions League final in Portugal next weekend but wanted to secure their spot in Europe's elite club competition beforehand.

The visitors dominated the first half against Villa, with 68% of possession, but it was their former forward Traore who grabbed the advantage for the home side, hitting the target off the underside of the bar from a Jack Grealish corner.

Chelsea should have equalised through Christian Pulisic before Traore won a penalty in the 51st minute when Jorginho clipped his ankle in the box and brought him down. Dutch midfielder El Ghazi scored from the spot.

CAPTAIN DISMISSED

Chilwell pulled a goal back for Chelsea in the 70th minute from a Pulisic pass, 10 minutes after Timo Werner had a goal ruled out for offside against captain Cesar Azpilicueta.

Tempers flared and Azpilicueta was sent off in the 88th after reacting to a Grealish challenge by poking him in the face.

It was wing back Chilwell who proved the most effective going forward and he could have had a second but for a fine save from Emiliano Martinez in Villa's goal.

"We didn’t put the game to bed when we should have... We could have scored a number of goals. We are angry with ourselves," Chilwell added.

The tension showed on Tuchel's face as he gestured energetically from the touchline while Chelsea pushed for an equaliser and he started to relax only when news came through of Tottenham's flurry of late goals at Leicester.

The German, who took over from Chelsea favourite Frank Lampard in January, had steered the club to the FA Cup final, which they lost to Leicester last weekend.

Chelsea started the day in third spot but Liverpool overtook them with a 2-0 home win over Crystal Palace.

Chelsea now need to regroup before travelling to Porto for the Champions league final and they will be concerned for first choice goalkeeper Edouard Mendy who had to be substituted at halftime after falling heavily into the post.

They will also hope that reliable France midfielder N'Golo Kante, left out on Sunday because of a hamstring injury, will be fit for the showdown with Manchester City.

(Reporting by Clare Lovell; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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