Writer: J P Fear
Date:Wednesday March 15 2006
City of Manchester Stadium
So Villa lost in the FA Cup re-play, and you know what? I don't care? Seriously, couldn't care less. The only thing I care about this season is to see Villa, brought to its knees by Ellis, retain it's premiership status in the hope that the old pariah will be gone by the summer.
With the injuries mounting up and a virus (or hopefully it is a virus and not the rumoured glandular fever to Milner) Villa are stretched to their limits. O'Leary, who has many faults, couldn't be blamed for 'just one of those days' as his preparation for the match was ruined with the news that Milner wasn't fit to travel, Juan Pablo Angel had an ankle problem and couldn't join the squad, Lee Hendrie wasn't well and wasn't going to Manchester either. Nor could O'Leary be blamed when Patrik Berger picked up an Achilles problem in warm up. He had been due to make his first start for months and he couldn't even survive the warm up. I have great sympathy for Berger, he is an outstanding player whose career has been blighted by injury - but you do have to question why the manager brought in a player who has had his career blighted with injury, free or not?!
Anyway, the game started brightly, both teams looked 'up for it' but Manchester City looked just a little bit MORE 'up for it'. It was a typical cup tie with some good blood and thunder, what Villa lacked was the final ball, or a small bit of quality. Even the usual outstanding Gareth Barry seemed to be way off in his distribution and set pieces. City closed our players down much quicker than we closed theirs down and according to the Sky statistics, by the 52nd minute, City had enjoyed 10 to our 1 shots at goal, the on target stat was even more damning, 5-0. No team will ever win a game of football unless they shoot on target, simple as that.
I actually quite enjoyed the game, mainly because I didn't really expect a great deal out of it. Our record against Manchester City is poor to say the least and they had played off the Villa Park only to miss a hat-full of chances themselves.
Their first goal was deserved, albeit a sickener. Mellberg was beaten by the outstanding Georgios Samaras to a long ball. Mellberg usually doesn't commit himself but he was easily beaten this time and it gave Samaras time to shoot. Thomas Sorenson pulled off an excellent save but had no luck with the rebound that went straight back to Samaras to slot it home. I'm sure Sorenson was cursing the lack of support from his defence who could just as easily been there and clearing the rebound. Samaras didn't come out in the second half and it was no real surprise after Liam Ridgewell literally left his mark on the strikers back with his studs. If the ref had seen it, surely a red would have followed? At best it was clumsy, at worst it was a diabolical foul. The much maligned Sorenson also pulled off a decent save from Trevor Sinclair - who in fairness really should have scored and to cap an already bad injury day, Milan Baros limped off with a twisted ankle following a tackle with Micah Richards.
Villa were still very much in the game and if they had scored the next gaol who knows what would happen. But again, if you don't shoot, you don't score. City shot and 2-0 was the result. Antoine Sibierski (on for Samaras) hit the post from a header and then Darius Vassell did what he so rarely managed for Villa, got in the right place at the right time and helped in a long range shot (no idea who from!). Game over. Or was it? Villa kept huffing and puffing and with a superb finish from Steven Davis, following a nice exchange between Phillips and Moore, Villa gave themselves a late glimmer of hope. However it proved too little too late and Psyco Stuart Pearce was left with a huge grin on his face.
His team were basically everything that Villa weren't, quick to close down, first to most balls, 'tight', fighting as a team, organised and composed. Back to the drawing board for Villa and unless they enter the Inter-Two-Bob, no chance of Europe once again.
Another wasted season.
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Date:Wednesday March 15 2006
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