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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