Date: 27th September 2008 at 7:46pm
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3 points, who is going to argue with that? Especially on such a bitterly cold afternoon…. Well, Chimbonda had long sleeves and gloves on, so I assume it was cold?!? And Sunderland are no pushover either especially with Steed Malbranque bombing forward. It is funny, despite Wednesday (and I still say Martin O’Neill put out a team good enough to win that game despite the changes) today even when we went one down, I didn’t think we looked like we would lose.

Villa did get off to a slow start and allowed Sunderland to come forward – or should I say Sunderland started quicker out of the traps and Villa soaked up the pressure? I guess you can look at it both ways! I did feel when Cisse put the ball in the back of our net on 9 minutes we had just started to take control of the game but a lovely quick move, helped by Malbranque if memory serves me right undid our defence superbly and you had to hand it to the Black Cats, it was just a well taken goal.

At that point we had two choices and these days Villa take the right choice, they don’t let their heads drop and they do keep going forward, sometimes a bit too quickly with ill timed long balls – Nicky Shorey today, who I think will prove to be a good buy and hasn’t been as bad this season so far as some seem to say, was the main culprit of that and twice passed the ball out of play… not good, not in the Premiership, the level is too high for that.

Villa took control of the ball well although again, I do wish they would concentrate on playing the ball on the ground because when they do they really can zip the ball about beautifully. 17 minutes in Ashley Young took a sublime free kick which was basically unstoppable. He really is a cheeky wee scamp and was tricky for the Sunderland players to deal with all game long. 1-1 and although the game wasn’t exactly rocking, it was entertaining enough and helped by a good atmosphere from both the Holte End AND the travelling Sunderland fans who are ALWAYS top quality, hats off (if I wore a hat) to them.

Come the half hour mark John Carew slotted home a fierce pass from the resurgent Stiliyan Petrov via a back heel and is starting to look like he is scoring for fun. He also won pretty much every header and helped put major pressure on the Sunderland defence today, this is the JC who could become a tip top class striker, he used his weight and menace well.

There aren’t many you could criticise really, Shorey was slightly out of whack, Barry wasn’t in top form, maybe Gabby could have done slightly more when he got the ball and went on runs but they are only minor points to another good 3 points, the third in a row. There was the time when Villa went 1 down, heads dropped and games were conceded, now we get goals – at both ends – and some entertainment, and this is a Villa side who are still nowhere near their maximum potential. Hopefully they will stop dropping so deep soon as that does bring the opposition on and causes our nerves to fray, but then again, with the speed we have in the team, we do at least have the capability of taking advantage on the break.

Player Ratings

Brad Friedel 7
Had little to do but what he had to do, he did well….if that makes any sense at all.

Nicky Shorey 5
He is usually far better in distribution but I still think he’ll be a good player for us.

Martin Laursen 8
Solid, what else would you expect? Nearly up there amongst the goals again as well.

Curtis Davies 8
Going to be a great player for Villa over the years, certainly will cause Carlos Cuellar some problems breaking into the first team.

Luke Young 7
Starting to slot in nicely.

Nigel Hokey-Cokey 7
Thought he did well today, although I get nervous when he is put at right-back, it isn’t his position!

Stiliyan Petrov 8.5
Man of the match

Gareth Barry 6
Not at his best but still contributed.

Ashley Young 7
Scintillating at times

Gabby Agbonlahor 6
Some in the phone ins were saying he was lazy, I think he contributed, just didn’t get the breaks

John Carew 7.5
Taking his chances now which is great to see.

James Milner 7 (on for Shorey 70 mins)
Thought he made a massive difference to the second half when he came on, certainly stopped Sunderland from getting on top of the game as they looked to push for an equaliser.

Carlos Cuellar (on for Carew 90 mins)
Not on long enough to judge. John Carew sat on the coaches bench (not the dug out bench) and was obviously knackered (he pointed to his throat earlier in the game so he might have a bug or whatever). Anyway, the 4th official came and told him he had to put a vest on and couldn’t just sit there with his Villa top. What is the world coming too? Rule after rule after rule!

Manager Rating
Martin O’Neill. Getting the results and that IS the be all and end all of football. However the substitution of Milner caused 3 changes in the team which is highly bizarre when the norm in footie is to change positions about as little as possible. Shorey came off, Luke Young went on the left, Hokey-Cokey went to right-back, Ashley Young swapped sides, you get the picture. Still, 3 points is 3 points.

Aways Fans
As per usual, a top class away fan contingent from the Black Cats.