Well, it seems that Villa really can do no wrong at the moment. It was by no means the most attractive of wins that we’ve been treated to of late. Infact, It was a game that before the turn of December, could have proven a lot more tricky for Martin O’Neill to navigate.
I must confess, I’ve been one of the many guilty of getting carried away with these performances latley. I stuck with a bold prediction of 4-0 before the game but in reality, the performance was far short of achieving such a score line.
That said, it was no poor performance either.
If anything Stoke started the better of the two teams, passing the ball well. It took Villa 10 minutes to really get into the game and from then on, slowly started to take control of the game.
The players clearly set out their intentions early on though with Dunne, Heskey, Petrov & Milner all having decent attempts in the opening half an hour. Petrov’s was probably the finer of the attempts which forced Villa old boy, Sorenson, into a fine double save with Young’s rebounded follow up.
Stoke gave us a scare though when Sidibe rose to meet an Etherington cross and slotted the ball in the let. Lukily, he was adjudged to have fouled Warnock and the goal was over ruled. It seems the news hadn’t registered with two particular Stoke fans until at last the 73rd minute as they stupidly jumped the last first of seats and made a right show of themselves just behind the hoardings. Needless to say, it was comical when they realised their error.
By the time half time came about you could sense that if one team was to go on and take the game, then it would only be Villa.
In the 61st minute Villa’s dominance finally paid off when Carew scored his 5th goal of the campaign. Ashley Young was again provider as he his cross from the right wing found Carew who beat Faye and headed home past Sorenson.
Carew’s over zealous celebration saw him kick out at the corner flag which flew into the Lower Holte hitting a fan. I don’t believe the fan was injured but Carew returned at the end of 90 minutes to hand the fan his shirt by way of apology.
From here on out it seemed a case of if Villa would increase their lead but as the game was reaching it’s climax, Fuller saw a decent attempt dip just over the top of Friedel’s bar and Villa saw out the three points.
It was a game that we could have just as easily drawn or lost so credit for the victory goes to Villa’s high confidence, after some famtastic away results over the last week.
With Arsenal & Liverpool up next, the three points were by far the most important factor. If we can get 4 points from these games then that really could be the catalyst for a great second half to the season.
Brad Friedel (6)
Not really had much to do and went the duration of the game largely untested due to another impressive performance from the defence.
Luke Young (9)
Man of the match. Resolute defending and not shy to get forward in support of Ashley Young & Stewart Downing.
Carlos Cuellar (8)
Yet another starring role from the Spaniard. As he fights for a place in the Spanish World Cup squad he was only narrowly pipped to the man of the match by Young.
Richard Dunne (8)
Saw a decent effort fly just over from a dipping Stewart Downing freekick early on. Also another defender putting in a brilliant defensive shift.
Stephen Warnock (6.5)
It says something when the worst performer in the defence put in far from a bad performance. Played well but was out shone by his defender colleagues
Stewart Downing (6.5)
Particularly remember him running at full pelt to track back and make a great sliding tackle to win back the ball in the opening 15 minutes. Again showing glimpses just how good he can be when up to 100% fitness.
Stylian Petrov (7)
Will undoubtedly become the unsung player of the match. Didn’t put a foot wrong and made some great advancing balls. Had a long range effort that could have just as easily gone in.
James Milner (7.5)
I know we can’t expect him to score or create something every game but I was still pleased with him. Some of passes truly are remarkable and is not adverse to getting back to help the team
Ashley Young (7)
An improved performance from Ashley to say the least. Provided the ball that Carew scored from and put in a hell of an effort. Lets hope he can keep improving to get back to his best.
Gabby Agbonlahor (6.5)
Another quiet one for Gabby. Wasn’t his most influential of games and probably should have been involved a bit more in play. Had a decent attempt and was taken down when in a position to do something.
Emile Heskey (5.5)
Hard to judge after only playing just over the 20 minute mark. Teed up Petrov for his 20 yard shot and had a decent enough effort of his own. A shame he had to go off as he’s been showing steady improvement since the Burnley game.
John Carew (7)
(for Heskey, 23) Scored the only goal of the game with a header from Ashley Young’s cross. You could see how much the goal meant to him with his celebration. Not a Bolton-like performance, but the winning goal nonetheless.
Steve Sidwell (2.76)
(for Downing, 81) Had two chances to double the scoreline late into the day but failed to hit the target on both occasions. At the very least he should be hitting the target and making the keeper work.
Unsure as to what O’Neill would do with the team before kick off. Stick with the team when playing so well, or rest some key players ahead of the next two big clashes? O’Neill did indeed start with the same team so lets see how he handles the next two vital games before we judge.
I would have liked to have seen a sell out. The fact, we were a good 7,500 short I can only put down to Christmas. With the Arsenal away allocation and the Liverpool home encounter already sold out, we have to continue this with Villa Park sell outs in the new year.
Even with the empty seats, the fans that did make it were making some noise. From where I was sitting at least.
I perhaps would have liked less Birmingham songs but now I’m just being picky.
Special mention to the Stoke fans who despite the ‘Sh*t support my lord’ and ‘We forgot that you were here’ chants, they really did do well to make some noise of their own.
The fact I couldn’t make out what they were singing is either due to my poor hearing or their poor accents. Either way, I was impressed with their travelling numbers.
A chicken balti pie. Thanks for asking!
And a pint of Carlsberg courtsey of Meyouldy. Cheers for that Don. Would you like your pink hat back?