|Cards at Christmas: Referee Phil Dowd (r) shows Aston
Villa defender Zat Knight a red card [AFP]
Aston Villa scored a late equaliser to draw 4-4 at Chelsea in a dramatic Premier League match that saw three players sent off.
Gareth Barry tied the game for Villa with a penalty kick in injury time after Chelsea defender Ashley Cole was sent off for handball, leaving the Blues with nine men.
Michael Ballack had put Chelsea ahead 4-3 in the 88th with a free kick, after the Blues rallied from 2-0 down behind two goals from Andriy Shevchenko.
The Ukraine striker then set up Alex to make it 3-2 before Martin Lauren levelled for Villa in the 72nd.
Villa played the whole second half with 10 men after Zat Knight was sent off in the 44th, and Chelsea also had Ricardo Carvalho sent off in the 80th.
Red cards also featured in the other two early matches.
Ten-man Reading rallied to a 1-1 draw at West Ham and Tottenham beat Fulham 5-1 with two goals each from Robbie Keane and Tom Huddlestone.
Fulham’s Moritz Volz was sent off in the 87th for a second yellow card.
Arsenal needs to win to be sure of maintaining first place in the league.
Chelsea extended its unbeaten streak in the Premier League at its Stamford Bridge home to 72 matches as Villa failed to repeat its 2-0 home win over the Blues in the league earlier this season.
Shaun Maloney put Villa ahead in the 14th minute, taking a header from John Carew to score past goalkeeper Petr Cech, who started despite bruising his side and hip in Sunday’s 1-0 win over Blackburn.
Maloney doubled Villa’s lead in the 44th after Cech fumbled his shot.
Shevchenko pulled one back with a penalty kick after Knight tackled Ballack, and equalized with a powerful shot from 20 meters (yards) in the 50th.
Alex took a pass from Shevchenko to score in the 66th, before Laursen levelled with a volley from a free kick from Ashley Young.
Ballack, who came on when Frank Lampard limped off with a leg injury in the first half, thought he’d scored the winner before Cole’s foul earned Villa the spot kick and Barry sent Cech the wrong way for the final equaliser.
Spurs hit five
Tottenham registered its biggest league win of the season. Keane scored in the 27th on a rebound after Steed Malbranque’s shot hit the post and then took a header from Dimitar Berbatov in the 62nd to score his 100th Premier League goal.
Huddlestone had goals in the 45th and 71st, with Jermain Defoe rounding off the win in the 90th.
Clint Dempsey scored off his own rebound to pull a goal back in the 60th for Fulham, which is playing under caretaker manager Ray Lewington after Lawrie Sanchez was fired on Friday.
Reading hold Hammers
Dave Kitson leveled for Reading in the 60th, taking Nicky Shorey’s pass to score.
Reading had been reduced to 10 men in the 29th minute when Brynjar Gunnarsson made a two-footed challenge on West Ham midfielder Hayden Mullins.
West Ham took the lead in the 42nd through Nolberto Solano.