Aston Villa vs. Chelsea: 6 Things We Learned
Aston Villa blew the title race wide open with a surprise 1-0 victory over Chelsea at Villa Park on Saturday.
Fabian Delph scored his audacious winner on 82 minutes, but the headlines will be about a whole lot more after two Chelsea players were sent off along with manager Jose Mourinho.
Willian was the first, receiving his marching orders in the 68th minute, while Ramires was dismissed late on for a horrible challenge on Karim El Ahmadi.
In the melee that followed, Mourinho was also ordered to the stands by referee Chris Foy.
Chelsea had been in control for long spells of the game until Willian's dismissal, but unlike Manchester City earlier in the day—who saw Vincent Kompany sent off before going on to defeat Hull City 2-0—the Blues failed to overcome the setback.
It means their strong position at the top of the Premier League has been severely weakened, with Arsenal, Liverpool and City no doubt taking much encouragement from the game.
So what did we learn from Chelsea's Villa Park defeat? Bleacher Report highlights some key areas.
Nemanja Matic's "Goal" Was Correctly Ruled out
Chelsea were in control of proceedings in the first half but had rarely threatened Brad Guzan in the Aston Villa goal.
That was until the 41st minute, when Nemanja Matic thought he had put the Blues ahead with a neatly taken finish from a corner.
There was a moment of silence in the stadium as those in attendance tried to work out what had happened.
Referee Chris Foy awarded the goal, with Matic wheeling away in celebration. Upon closer inspection and having consulted his linesman, however, he changed his decision, with Matic appearing to control the ball with his arm before converting.
And as television replays showed, the referee and his assistant got it right.
Willian Shouldn't Have Been Sent Off...
Willian was rightly booked for his challenge on Karim El Ahmadi in the first half (pictured above), although when Chris Foy sent him off for a second bookable offence after the interval, the Brazilian had every right to feel hard done by.
Willian's 68th-minute tackle on Fabian Delph perhaps warranted a free kick, having nudged the Villa midfielder from behind. It was hardly a booking, however, and should not have resulted in him being dismissed.
It was a decision that changed the game with Chelsea in control and the team looking most likely to score.
Instead, with an extra man, Villa seized the initiative and eventually made the most of their one-man advantage by going on to win the game.
To rub salt in the wound, it was the player who Willian challenged to get sent off—Delph—who scored the decisive goal.
...But Ramires Fully Deserved His Red Card
If Chelsea felt aggrieved for Willian's earlier dismissal, the Blues could have little complaint when Ramires saw red in the fourth minute of added time.
By then, the clock was running down and the game was all but gone for Chelsea. Yet Ramires can have little excuse for his lunge on Karim El Ahmadi.
It was a horror challenge, with the Brazilian flying in late and over the ball to stamp down on his opponent's leg.
Commenting afterwards in the Sky Sports studio, Jamie Redknapp described it as one of the worst challenges he has seen all season. We wouldn't go that far, but it was a horrible sight.
Frustration after a disappointing evening or not, it was ill-discipline and now means Ramires will be missing at a vital stage of the season when Jose Mourinho will need all of his players for the run-in.
Villa Park Remains an Unhappy Hunting Ground for Jose Mourinho
Five visits to Villa Park for Jose Mourinho and not one victory to show for it. The Chelsea manager must dread trips to the Midlands.
Saturday was Mourinho's third defeat at the home of Aston Villa, with his previous best results being a 0-0 draw in 2004 followed by a 1-1 scoreline in February 2006.
This latest defeat will rank as his most painful, however.
Not only did Mourinho see his team dominate and come out 1-0 losers, but the circumstances in which they suffered defeat will frustrate him.
Some poor refereeing decisions saw Willian sent off, while he himself was sent to the stands late on when Ramires was dismissed for his lunge on Karim El Ahmadi.
It never rains, it pours, and it certainly did that for Mourinho at Villa Park on Saturday.
Referees Cannot Always Be Let Off the Hook
Jose Mourinho said very little in his post-match press conference and on TV, but what he did say carried an element of wisdom that the football authorities would do well to heed.
Mourinho explained to Sky Sports that he had asked referee Chris Foy to speak with him at the final whistle and explain his decisions. According to Mourinho, the referee declined.
"The referees do what they do and go home," he explained.
With so much riding on results in the modern era, surely referees should be held accountable for decisions they make that play a considerable role in the outcome of a game.
Foy didn't have to speak with Mourinho regarding Willian's sending off and he acted upon that right, but should that be allowed?
Managers and players are hauled before disciplinary panels to explain their actions, yet referees are able to walk away and not give the courtesy of an explanation at least to managers and players as to why they have made certain decisions.
It's wrong and, if anything, gives referees a worse reputation than what they actually deserve.
Goal-line technology has been introduced to assist match officials in their decision making, so surely the FA can bring in regulations to open dialogue with referees and managers that will ease tensions and bring more transparency to the game.
Right now, it's akin to a teacher-student relationship where the referee is always right, and that's not healthy.
The Kids Are All Right at Villa Park
And so Paul Lambert's project with Aston Villa's young squad continues to gather pace, with Saturday's 1-0 victory over Chelsea adding another major scalp to the list in 2013-14.
This time last year, Villa were struggling in a relegation battle, but now they're in the top 10 and looking strong.
Just how far this team can go is anyone's guess, yet Villa are showing signs that in seasons to come, they will be back challenging for European qualification at least.
Their starting line-up on Saturday had an average age just shy of 25 years old and didn't include one player over the age of 30.
Indeed, seven of the starting XI were aged 24 or younger, with Ashley Westwood the pick of the bunch in midfield.
Things are coming together for this Villa team, and as these young players gain more experience, they are going to be a force to be reckoned with.
Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @garryhayes