Chelsea dropped points for the fourth time in five Premier League games as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Aston Villa in their final match of 2020.
Frank Lampard will have been hoping for a response to their woeful 3-1 defeat to Arsenal and dropped big-money signing Timo Werner amid a goal drought, but the Blues were no more fluent against Dean Smith’s side.
Villa’s hopes of keeping five consecutive top-flight clean sheets for the first time since September 1998 were ended 34 minutes in as Olivier Giroud struck, making it seven successive goalscoring appearances against the Villans in the Premier League for the Frenchman.
But Anwar El Ghazi levelled with his fifth goal in as many games in the 50th minute and that proved decisive, while Chelsea were fortunate to not concede again when John McGinn hit the crossbar.
An entertaining start saw both sides threaten, Jack Grealish having a curling 18-yard effort turned wide by Edouard Mendy before Christian Pulisic lashed into the side-netting at the other end.
Another opportunity was spurned by Pulisic just past the half-hour, though two minutes later Chelsea had the lead – Giroud sending a thumping header in from Ben Chilwell’s inviting delivery.
Villa levelled early in the second half when Matty Cash’s cross found El Ghazi at the back post, and he steered home through the legs of Mendy, who probably should have done better.
Chelsea’s reaction was hardly emphatic and Villa went agonisingly close to a spectacular second, the ball breaking kindly for McGinn 30 yards from goal and his fierce effort cannoned off the bar.
Lampard introduced the much-maligned Werner and Kai Havertz towards the end, though neither inspired an improvement in Chelsea’s fortunes against a shrewd Villa backline.