Villa Beat Themselves
Attendance: 21 932
Well, better late than never. Unless you don't like my match reports, then 'oh bugger'.
I keep looking at the score and wondering how it ended up that way. I am sure the majority of the Villa team - and probably the Blackburn team - are thinking the same. This was a completely different Villa from the dour and passionless lot who faced Portsmouth the week before and to be fair they faced a completely different Blackburn who played Spurs off the pitch and still lost 3-2 the previous week. Rather confusing eh?! Villa played terribly the week before and won. Blackburn played supremely and loss. But this game Villa were largely dominant, had the lions share of real chances, and yet they ended up being defeated by what looks a comfortable margin.
The difference? A wasteful striker and a keeper who looked like he had trained with the Australian cricket team who dropped more catches at last summers Ashes loss than Mr Drops from Dropsville. Whilst Thomas Sorenson could be blamed for the loss with his awful fumbling ways Milan Baros would have to take the blame for squandering what should have been an easy win. You don't pay £6.5million for a striker only to see him miss a hat-trick of clear and easy chances. Yes Brad Friedel played out of his skin - and got the sponsors man-of-the-match award, which tells the story in itself - but Baros should be putting away those sort of chances with infinite ease at this stage of his career. Twice he got in the right position and ended up one-on-one with Friedel, twice he failed to get the ball round the big American and twice he looked sloppy in trying. The other chance was a free header just in front of goal. This was the finishing of an average striker, something I had never thought Baros was.
Villa had started the match far sharper and brighter than I had seen them all season, barring the 4-0 annihilation of Everton on boxing day. This was a slick and quick passing team. After about 25 minutes Blackburn finally realised they were playing and the rest of the half seemed to descend into slightly more ordinary fodder.
As they went in at half time I couldn't help but wonder what Bellamy would have made with the chances we had squandered. He answered in the second half when he got a half chance, thanks to Sorenson being unable to hold on to the ball, and buried it. That was the 71st minute. Andy Todd had opened the scoring on 49 after Sorenson had gathered the ball, dropped the ball, tried to grab it again and missed it. The key stone cops looked more organised than the hapless Danish keeper and to be fair, you just knew that Villa were going to be made to pay for their missed opportunities.
Even the most ardent anti O'Leary fan could lay the blame for this defeat at his door, especially when he lost James Milner shortly before the game. Mind you, I guess you could question why Luke Moore was put out wide (and wasn't due to start despite his recent goalscoring exploits for Villa) as opposed to the more usual Lee Hendrie. Villa had started well, had most of the attacking play and had played with more passion than we have seen for months. Sorenson and Baros let the team down and although both looked gutted - and would certainly not have done it on purpose - these are meant to be top class players and they should not be making such elementary mistakes.
You can't say Villa were robbed because they beat themselves. I must admit I'm a fan of Baros, but his performance has got me questioning his ability. He should have converted at least two of the three chances and come off the pitch a hero. If Villa had taken the lead, I doubt that Blackburn would have had an answer, when Villa were at full speed, Rovers looked punch drunk and shocked. As the teams walked off the pitch, it was the boys in claret and blue who were shocked.
Play like that against Manchester City on Tuesday, and we may just book ourselves into the next round of the FA Cup. Well, if we play like that and the keeper and 'star' striker don't anyway.
More points wasted, more backward glances to make sure the teams below don't suck us back into the battle. Big games v Everton and Fulham are coming in the next weeks, lets just hope we don't miss anymore opportunities, to go into 'Local Derby April' without a few more points on the table, and we could all be in for a nail biting finale to the season.