Date: 23rd December 2007 at 12:32pm
Written by:

Its been a good weekend for me, we had the Vital Villa meet up at the Holte Pub on Friday night, steak, beer and good company, then some more beer. What more can you ask for?

Then to the game on Saturday, no matter how bad the times have been at Villa, as soon as you see the stadium you can’t help but get the buzz and remember WHY you bother. Now the times are a changing the excitement is higher and the atmosphere is ten times better, that all makes for a much better match day experience and is long over due.

You see, with too much beer in the system, I just ramble… Sod it, its Christmas and lets face it, most of you have lives and won’t be reading this anyway!

Pie in stomach, I sat down with a mixture of optimism and trepidation, after-all, despite most of us thinking we’d win the game (or at least most around by me + the majority in our poll Win (64%), Lose (31%), Draw (5%)) we were playing a team who hadn’t been out of the top five all season.

The start was a major worry, we were second to every ball and every time we got the ball we hoofed it back up to Man City to build another attack. These tactics have got to change, this is not what Champions League sides are built on, so hopefully with a few new arrivals we can see the ball played far more often where it is meant to be played, on the floor. Wasn’t it Brian Clough who said if football had been made to be played in the air, God wouldn’t have created grass? Probably not, it is probably a figment in my ever bemusing imagination.

The Citeh, who have fans much like us who back their team through good and bad, home and away – just that they don’t talk proper like what we do (!) – ooh, Fairytale of New York has just come on…. took the lead and rightly so. At that point I thought they were going to annihilate us as they looked more like the home team with wave after wave of attacks and our boys chasing shadows.

Strangely though, as soon as their goal went in, Villa woke up and up popped the mighty John Carew to score a fantastic equaliser. He so very nearly had a second (albeit after seeing the replays having started the move by the use of his arm) which was superbly saved by Citeh’s impressive young goalkeeper Joe Hart (son of Hollywood detectives Hart to Hart I believe!)

The rest of the game was Villa’s for the taking if not for the fact we couldn’t finish. It does appear that we still want to walk the ball into the net but the best chances and most attacking play certainly seemed to come from the mighty claret and blue. We even had a goal line clearance, or goal depending on who you listen to. Alan Hansen did a bit of tinkering on a computer and showed that it was a goal, but to be fair to the linesman, or assistant ref or whatever the heck they are called now, it would have been a tough one to give. Goal line technology anyone? Must be so easy to do and yet football remains oblivious to technology.

All in all the game wasn’t a classic but it was a well contested game, although Citeh did shock me at how dirty they were at times. Is it dirty or is it just competitive? Maybe we need to start crunching in more as well?

The main person involved in the game was the referee. He was truly appalling and missed four or five fouls on John Carew, who was at one point decked near by where I sit, when he saw he hadn’t been given a free kick he just looked totally bemused, laughed and got back up again. Martin O’Neill on the other hand went barmy and threw his bottle of lucazade with a rude word or two for good measure. The fourth official certainly had a busy game, bet he was dying to say to the Villa bench, ‘look, it isn’t my fault the ref is crap’! As Murph, who came in with me said, the ref was actually quite impressive due to the fact he was reffing the game AND inventing new rules for us at the same time.

Some have said in the forum that a draw v Citeh wasn’t good enough. Said about Sunderland and I’d agree, but not Citeh, they have a canny manager who has spent the money available very well and has guided them to the top five whilst we still talk of being in transition. We missed our chance to be where they are in the summer, now all eyes are on Martin O’Neill in January, the pressure is on to bring in the quality we so desperately need – as he admitted yesterday (Villa Boss Left Cursing Luck) A right-back, a top class striker and a playmaker and we might just push in the second half of the season, especially as we have some easier home games coming up (if there is any such thing as an easy game in the Premiership)

Player Ratings

Scott Carson 6
Didn’t really have a great deal to do, don’t think he was to blame for the goal, but does need to start coming out for crosses and corners more.

Olof Mellberg 7
Please don’t go Melly. Get a right-back and return Mellberg to where he is best, alongside Laursen in defence.

Martin Laursen 7
3-4 top headers to clear away threats, also got into scoring positions and more goals are bound to come for him. Quality player doing the job for two at times but was in the wrong position for the goal.

Zat Knight 6
Gets caught out too much, first time leading to Citeh goal and I just can’t see why he was brought in and how he has kept his place ahead of a £9m (?) defender. Then again, what do I know?

Wilfred Bouma 6
Shreks brother did ok defensively but his distribution still leaves a lot to be desired and that is a shame after he works so hard to get the ball back.

Ashley Young 6
Effectively played out of the game for much of the game.

Gareth Barry 6
Not a vintage performance but still contributed and the one through ball he did lobbing the defenders was worth the admission fee alone.

Shaun Maloney 5.5
Not really up to speed, few nice touches, needs a run in the team to get up to speed. Would still love to see him played in a free role where he could roam around a bit.

Nigel Hokey-Cokey 6
Seems to be splitting the fans but it isn’t his fault if he is told to play the holding role. Does the scruffy stuff that goes unnoticed. Should have either shot or got his pass to Gabby right in the second half though, that two on two situation should have provided Villa the winner. That said, he again got back when the defenders weren’t near the ball to stop a good chance for City.

Gabby Agbonlahor 6
Was involved in the game throughout, should have buried the ball that was cleared off the line, that is the sort of chance you HAVE to take.

John Carew 8
Immense. Fouled over and over throughout the game but gave his all and was unlucky not to have had a second. Looks like he is nearing full fitness and is now showing why he came to Villa with such a big reputation. I’d have loved to have seen him play alongside Milan Baros, not be his replacement.

Stiliyan Petrov (on for Maloney on 75)
Looked ok, few good runs, hopefully he’ll get back on track because before he got injured, he had started to look better.

Manager Rating
Martin O’Neill. Eyes on Martin in January, got to shore up this squad otherwise we’ll finish 7-9th. The man is amazing, he looks like he is kicking every ball, living every moment, he never stands still, he just lives it. Got well fed up with the ref and (sorry Martin) that was quite entertaining to watch – in between shouting at the ref ourselves obviously!

Must admit I thought he would have brought on Harewood with 15 minutes to go to see if he could offer anything fresh. Not sure why he was bought as he hasn’t had a look in since arriving.

Opponent Rating
Sven Goran-Eriksson. Deserves a round of applause for looking like a bank manager and yet pulling Ulrika! Bought well, got the team playing a tough game but a passing game. That is how football should be.