Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel has warned the Premier League big guns they rule his side out of the running for the top four places in the division at their peril – their season is not over just because they faltered at Stamford Bridge.
Villa had been widely tipped to be the side to break into the upper echelons this season but missed out on a chance to go top of the Barclays table with their 2-0 defeat at Chelsea.
Friedel was Villa’s man of the match, pulling off a string of heroic saves and was unfortunate not to keep out Chelsea’s second after making a double save only to see the rebounding ball fall back to Anelka.
“We’re much better than what we showed but saying that, it was a combination of that and Chelsea being very good, especially in the first 35 minutes or so,” he said. “They really stamped their authority on the game.
“They are playing like they did in the first season that Jose Mourinho took over. They have very good players and we weren’t as good as we have been in previous weeks which we have to address.”
Friedel insisted Villa would not use the heavily-laden fixture list as an excuse.
He said: “When you are playing against any of the top teams you have to be playing well from the first minute. Perhaps we weren’t, but you have to give credit to them.
“You can make excuses for anything if you want to, I know this is our seventh game in 21 days but their players have had a lot to do.”
The American shot-stopper, who joined Villa from Blackburn Rovers in the summer, played down his role in the game despite his five or six crucial saves as Chelsea launched an onslaught on their visitors.
He said: “I never thought about it turning into a rout, that’s not what you think about when you are playing a match.
“They scored at the right times and the only thing we maybe could have done would have been to hold on at 1-0 and then regroup at that stage. The second goal was a killer.
“We played against a top team. The good thing about this is that we have some great players in the dressing room and we know that we won’t be putting in another performance like that.
“Everything in the build-up to this game has been very positive so we will have to go back to the training ground and get it right for Portsmouth.
“The management team will be straight on us at the training ground.
“We have played seven games, there are 31 left. There are still a lot of points out there.
For manager Martin O’Neill there was little to say but eulogise about the quality of Villa’s opponents.
He said: “Chelsea were absolutely brilliant. They were very strong, very quick, athletic and agile. They were quality.”
The Northern Irishman admitted his side had been frustrated by their hosts.
“From our point of view it was very frustrating that we couldn’t get our good players in the game.
“What you need at places like this is the lads performing at the levels they have in recent games but we couldn’t.
“We had a little spell just after half time when we came back into the match but we needed to score at that point. Unfortunately we didn’t and Chelsea ended up winning comfortably.”