Date: 18th December 2008 at 12:52pm
Written by: randy.stand

3.30am- We set off for Heathrow Airport to catch our 7.50am flight to Hamburg. The main talking point in the car was Martin O`Neill`s squad selection. We all came to the conclusion that it was probably the right thing to do for the squad but then again we were taking away the whole spine of the team which is effectively Brad Friedel, Martin Laursen, Gareth Barry and Gabby Agbonlahor.

So we arrived at Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport which is the new terminal. I must admit I was not overly impressed. Not designed very well, directions awful and expected more from a brand new terminal at Heathrow. Anyhow, we went down to Wetherspoon`s for a Full English after we had checked through security etc etc. A perfect way to start the day. Neilh111 joined us shortly after and stayed with us until we went and boarded the plane, which was good.

We arrived in Hamburg at 9.30am our time which is 10.30am German time. We got the S-Bahn underground to Hauptanbahnhof which is Hamburg Town Centre. Miles and miles of traditional German Markets selling all kinds of German products. Already at this early hour there were signs of plenty of Villa fans in Hamburg with many strolling around the markets. Most of the Villa fans were congregating in the Rathaus Town Market where the German Bar was serving German Beer and mulled wine to many villa supporters. Sprits were high but doubts were still being cast over Martin O`Neill`s squad selection.

We grabbed something to eat and made our way to the stadium. Hamburg and Villa fans were split up. Hamburg fans got the train to the station directly near the stadium whilst Villa fans had to go a bit further and catch a free shuttle bus taking us to the stadium. First impressions of the stadium were very good. Looked huge from the outside and looked very very smart. I bought a Villa-Hamburg scarf for 10 euros whilst the match programmes were only 50 cents, pity they are all in German however.

There was a huge accident on the U-Bahn railway not long before the game causing many fans to be late and some to not even get to the game whatsoever. Fans didn`t get to the seats, everyone seemed to stand anywhere they wanted. So the game started and it was slow. The pitch was very bubbly and was clearly causing problems to both sides. Villa started with Harewood and Delfouneso up top. Gardner, Coker, Sidwell and Salifou in midfield. Shorey, Young, Cuellar and Knight at the back and Brad Guzan in goal. All in all 8 changes were made from the win vs Bolton at the weekend.

It was very scrappy in the early proceedings with no side having any chances. Then a ball came over, fell to Petric and he volleyed the ball home past Guzan and put Hamburg in the lead. 1-0. Villa looked unsettled and it wasn`t too long before the second arrived, Ivica Olic heading home after some awful man marking by Zat Knight and Carlos Cuellar. Gardner had a good chance but shot over and Marlon Harewood had a couple of half chances but squandered them. Hamburg then had a shot hit the crossbar when Jansen smashed a shot and it cannoned back against the woodwork.

Second half began. Villa looked a lot brighter with Nigel Reo-Coker running the midfield for Villa but still not creating any chances. But once again Hamburg scored. Martin O`Neill suggests it shouldn`t have happened but I was quite high up and couldn`t really comment either way. Gardner got on the end of a Luke Young cross when Rost took him out. Hamburg went up the other end, and Olic beat Cuellar to the ball and shot it past Guzan to make it 3-0 Hamburg. Game over.

Young Barry Bannan came on for the injured Gardner and he looked quite bright. Nathan Delfounseso showed great instinct by converting Salifou`s shot into the net. 3-1. Cue the chants of ‘easy easy easy` and ‘lets all have a disco` from the Villa fans.

But almost immediately Hamburg went up the other end, Steve Sidwell had no other option but to foul him which resulted in his second yellow card.

Jansen then had another shot hit the crossbar in the very final minute but the bar had saved Villa from more misery and embarrassment.

I for one couldn`t care less about the score. Many positives from where I was watching. Mainly Delfouneso, Bannan, Reo-Coker. Harewood should be shot. He was abysmal. Knight wasn`t much better and Cuellar looked all over the shop. It showed us what our fringe players are really like.

Nevertheless, next round of the Uefa Cup, 4th in the League, the season is looking good Villa fans.

Bring on Milan- Up the Villa.

Player Ratings

Brad Guzan – 6
Couldn`t do a lot with any of the goals.

Luke Young – 6
looked uncomfortable in his favoured position

Nicky Shorey – 7
pretty solid.

Carlos Cuellar – 5
Couldn`t recover from his mistakes. Cleary can`t play with Knightmare.

Zat Knight: – 4
Horrible. Never going to be anything more than 4th choice. Embarrassing from Big Zat.

Mous Salifou – 6
Didn`t do too bad but I still can`t see what he adds to the team.

Nigel Cokey Coker – 8
Best of a bad bunch. Looked like he was actually trying and did well on the right when Gardner went off.

Craig Gardner – 5
Lacklustre

Steve Sidwell – 6
Looked ok at times, shocking at other times. Couldn`t help but be sent off.

Marlon Harewood
I can`t even rate because he was that shocking.

Nathan Delfouneso – 7
Promising. Our best player going forward by a long way.

Barry Bannan – 6
Did more for the side than many of the other players and showed promise aswell.

The Fans
Fans: 2k to 3k in the Stadium, more elsewhere in the town. Brilliant vocal support after travelling a long way to see the lads.

Arrangement of Buses: 3
Terrible. Lol. After the game they sent one bus at first for about 300 people. The doors wouldn`t shut as people`s heads were sticking out the doors. Shoddy!