Chelsea's title hopes dented by Villa draw

LONDON, Jan 2, 2011 (AFP) - Chelsea's bid to retain the Premier League title suffered another blow as struggling Aston Villa snatched a dramatic 3-3 draw at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Carlo Ancelotti's side were on course for a crucial win after late goals from Didier Drogba and John Terry, but Ciaran Clark equalised in stoppage time and the reigning champions are now in severe danger of losing touch with the main title contenders.

Even a Champions League spot isn't certain for fifth-placed Chelsea. The Blues have won just once in eight league games and are six points behind leaders Manchester United, who also have a game in hand.

Ancelotti conceded the result will make it harder to lift morale at the Bridge.

"We needed to win this game. We didn't and now it's more difficult to prepare for the next game," he said.

"I'm disappointed because we worked very hard in the second half to come back into the game when 2-1 down.

"We did a fantastic job, we came back and scored to make it 3-2 and everyone thought the game was finished."

Frank Lampard put Chelsea in front with a 23rd-minute penalty, but Ashley Young levelled from the spot four minutes before half-time.

Villa took the lead when Emile Heskey headed in Stewart Downing's cross in the 47th minute.

Drogba equalised in the 84th minute and it looked as though Chelsea would steal the points when Terry netted in the 89th minute.

But in stoppage time the Chelsea defence went to sleep and Clark beat the offside trap to head in the leveller.

Villa boss Gerard Houllier was delighted with the way his side fought back and he said: "That was a huge demonstration of personality and character.

"The fighting spirit was there. We picked an experienced team because we thought that would be best but the goal at the end was made by our two youngest players."

In the day's other fixture, Shola Ameobi scored a first-half winner as Newcastle clinched a 1-0 victory at struggling Wigan.

Ameobi struck in the 19th minute with a close-range finish after Peter Lovenkrands hit the post.

It was enough to give Alan Pardew's team a second win under their new manager, while Wigan are just one point and one place above the relegation zone after their first defeat in five matches.

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