Irons 1 - 1 Lions
Attendance: 34 576
Aston Villa are back in the lime light under Martin O'Neill and rightly so. Not only are we back in the lime light but we are also back to being a very difficult team to break down and beat and one that can now take comfort in the fact that we can compete with ANY team on our day.
Fine, we are still short of bodies and I'm sure that Martin O'Neill would love to have had time to bring in a few more signings before the transfer window closed, but WAHEY (copyright John Cresswell) to the arrival of Stiliyan Petrov (Stan) as his debut was nothing short of majestic.
Happy days indeed, yesterdays game showed that there is no reason why we shouldn't be in the top half of the table and compete for Europe 'Why not?' said Petrov when asked adding 'We all have dreams and want to follow our dreams. We can work hard, hope everyone stays fit and see what happens.'
Villa came flying out of the blocks yesterday and were soon a goal up thanks to quick thinking and determined finishing by Liam Ridgewell. He really is coming on leaps and bounds so far this season looking far more Premiership quality each game he plays. There might be a lesson there for the boo boys who want the youth players to come through and then don't give them a chance when they make mistakes?!
The rest of the half belonged to Villa apart from one moment of madness from Thomas Sorenson when he gifted Harewood (or was it Zamora?!) the ball in the box only for the Hammers striker to miss a golden opportunity to draw level.
Angel hit the crossbar twice during the game, he needs that slice of striker luck now as he is certainly back and buzzing despite playing up front on his own with Moore and Agbonlahor being utilised more as attacking wingers or support strikers. The formation was interesting with Mellberg taking the right back slot, Laursen and Ridgewell in the centre and Gareth Barry dropping back to left back. That made room for Davis and McCann to remain in the line up AND for Petrov to make his debut - and what a debut! If only his deft flick over Roy Carrol had gone in he'd have been contender for the goal of the month if not the season. A majestic touch that reminded me of Paul Merson at his very best. How that was cleared off the line is anyone's guess, shame because that would have been game over!
In the second half Villa became ragged for a 25-30 minute period and Gabby and Luke Moore especially looked knackered. During that time Bobby Zamora popped up with a lucky (!) deflected goal but even then I couldn't see Villa losing the game, they have far more steel these days. Towards the end Villa rallied and made a few other chances, with a cross by Gabby only inches away from being knocked in by a couple of Lions, but it wasn't to be and despite having the best chances, the honours were shared. Alan Pardew must have been the happier manager with the draw, he knew despite them having the lions share (or should that be the Irons share?) of possession, that Villa were the better team on the day.
Match stats: Click Here
Vital Villa asked what the result would be and 61% were wrong predicting a Villa win! 24% said a draw and just 15% expected a loss.
I was asked by a Hammers fan on our open terrace forum how many of our players would we swap for theirs - his suggestion being I'd take more of his team over ours. Well mate, on the showing of West Ham yesterday, there isn't ONE of your players the real Claret and Blue army would want or need!
Thomas Sorenson 5
Olof Mellberg 8
Liam Ridgwell 8
Martin Laursen 8
Gareth Barry 8
Steven Davis 7
Gavin McCann 7
Stiliyan Petrov 10
Luke Moore 7
Gabriel Agbonlahor 7
Juan Pablo Angel 9
Milan Baros (for Angel)