Chelsea secure top four despite defeat at Aston Villa

    Chelsea secure top four despite defeat at Aston Villa    

Chelsea secure top four despite defeat at Aston Villa

Chelsea owe rivals Tottenham Hotspur a debt of gratitude after finishing fourth in the Premier League and qualifying for next season’s Champions League despite a 2-1 defeat at Aston Villa.

The Blues started the day in third, one point ahead of fourth-placed Leicester City and Liverpool in fifth. It meant a win at Villa Park would guarantee Chelsea a coveted top-four finish and a place in the European Cup regardless of results elsewhere.

Ultimately, though, Chelsea did have to rely on other results. After going down 2-0 – following Bertrand Traore’s scuffed finish and Anwar El Ghazi’s penalty either side of halftime – the Blues faced an almighty task to both claw back a win on the day and hold on to a top four berth.

Their cause appeared increasingly hopeless with Leicester twice leading Tottenham following a pair of Jamie Vardy penalties either side of Harry Kane’s equaliser.

However, Spurs levelled through an own goal from Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel before Gareth Bale grabbed a late brace for a comeback 4-2 win at the King Power Stadium.

It meant Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat to Villa – Ben Chilwell pulled one back with a well-struck volley – did not prove too damaging. Their chances of rescuing at least a point took a further setback after captain Cesar Azpilicueta saw red for a late challenge on Jack Grealish.

The Blues have slipped one place to fourth following Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Crystal Palace, but did enough to finish ahead of Leicester by the slimmest of margins – level on points but with a better goal difference of two – to take a measure of revenge against the team that beat them in the FA Cup final.

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