Villa U21 1-1 Chelsea U21: Crooks on target as Villa are held
Villa missed the chance to close the gap at the top of their Barclays U21 Premier League group after being held to a draw by Chelsea.
Alfie Crooks gave the home side a deserved lead with a first-half strike, but Milan Lalkovic equalised from the penalty spot.
With nine minutes remaining, Villa had a chance to take all three points but Chelsea keeper Jamal Blackman saved Daniel Johnson's penalty.
It means league leaders Everton are now three points clear of Villa with a game in hand after they won 2-1 against Middlesbrough earlier in the day.
The claret and blues made one change from last week's victory at Blackburn - Lewis Kinsella coming in for Brad Lewis at left-back.
Gordon Cowans' side came flying out of the blocks with Jack Grealish looking particularly lively.
On four minutes, the 17-year-old winger brilliantly spun away from his marker before hitting a low-left foot shot which Blackman held.
Blackman then saved a half-volley from Callum Robinson after a Samir Carruthers cross was cleared into the path of the Villa striker.
The hosts took a deserved lead after 25 minutes thanks to the quick reactions of Crooks.
Blackman came flying out of his goal to meet a left-wing cross from Kinsella. The keeper could only punch the cross as far as Crooks who fired into the empty net.
Five minutes later, a defence-splitting through ball from Carruthers played in Johnson but Blackman made a superb save to keep out the Villa skipper's fierce drive at the near post.
The visitors fought back towards the end of the half with two chances of their own.
Firstly, Benjamin Siegrist tipped away Milan Lakovic's low drive, before John Swift missed from close range after meeting Connor Hunte's cutback.
Eleven minutes into the second half, Chelsea were given a lifeline when Josh Webb caught Lalkovic with a mistimed sliding tackle.
The Slovak striker missed from the spot when these two sides met at Cobham 10 day ago but he made no mistake here, powering his spot-kick past Siegrist.
Blackman was called into action twice more, getting down low to deny efforts from Robinson and substitute Riccardo Calder.
Nine minutes from time, referee Neil Radford pointed to the spot again. This time it was in Villa's favour after Danny Pappoe sent Derrick Williams tumbling to the ground.
Johnson stepped up but Blackman leapt to his right to push the shot around the post.
VILLA: Siegrist, Webb, Kinsella, Stieber, Donacien, Williams, Crooks, Carruthers, Robinson, Johnson, Grealish. Subs: Bateman [or Webb, 77], Watkins, Calder [for Crooks, 64], Lyden.
CHELSEA: Blackman, Dabo, Pappoe, Conroy, Deen-Conteh, T Musonda, L Musonda, Ssewankambo, Swift, Hunte. Subs: Gnahore [Hunte, 75], Beeney, Bangura, Seremba [for T Musonda, HT].
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