Champions League-chasing Aston Villa squanders two-goal lead in draw with Chelsea

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BIRMINGHAM, England — Aston Villa squandered a two-goal lead to draw with Chelsea 2-2 in the English Premier League on Saturday, denting its push for Champions League qualification.

It could have been even worse for Villa as Chelsea thought it grabbed a winner through substitute Axel Disasi in stoppage time. The goal was ruled out for a push in the buildup and that angered Chelsea’s players, who surrounded the referee after the final whistle.

Villa built a 2-0 cushion by halftime after an own-goal by Marc Cucurella in the fourth minute and a strike by Morgan Rogers in the 42nd.

Chelsea dominated the second half, with Noni Madueke reducing the deficit in the 62nd and Conor Gallagher curling in from the edge of the area for an equalizer in the 81st.

Villa, which is fourth, moved seven points clear of fifth-placed Tottenham and has three games left.

Spurs have three games in hand on Villa but have the much tougher run-in, which includes matches against Arsenal — on Sunday — as well as Liverpool and Manchester City.

Villa is looking to qualify for the Champions League for the first time. It was European champion in 1982, when Europe’s top competition was called the European Cup.

The draw guaranteed Villa at least a place in next season’s Europa League.

Big-spending Chelsea stayed in ninth place but also has games in hand over the teams it is battling with for qualification for the minor European competitions next season.

Source: AP