Phew, 3 Points v Fulham
Attendance: 36 638
(template has now been repaired so putting this through for the archive of match reports)
As Jimmy Greaves once said, 'it's a funny old game' and lets face it, yesterday was full of entertainment and at times hilarious, ok maybe part of it were slapstick, but the match certainly couldn't be accused of being boring!
Villa started brightly enough but within six minutes the defence were caught napping and Fulham were one up. That didn't deter the brilliant Villa crowd who were up for this game throughout the game, shame Stiliyan Petrov wasn't the same. He was so bad even Martin O'Neill noticed this time and he didn't reappear after half time, that said, nor did the manager who had been chastised by the match ref and told to go to the stands for the second half!
I think Villa deserved the victory, but then I would, I'm a Villa fan, but after watching the highlights last night, I must admit that Fulham could have been three up. They had a blatant hand ball penalty claim ignored - lets face it, if that was a Man Utd, Liverpool, Chelsea or Arsenal player who shot they'd have got the decision without question as Gardner blocked a certain goal with his arm. They also had a shot from former Baggies man Kamara hit the inside of the post only to bounce back out across the goal. If we'd gone 2-0, or even 3-0 down, team spirit or not, it would have been curtains as we don't appear to have that many goals in the team. Well, not on yesterdays performance of constant golden chances and constant wide of the mark shots. Scott Carson also made an outstanding save from a Dempsey shot, he really will not be shifted from that goal now and you can be sure as day that Sorensen and Taylor will be very unhappy this season!
So Villa went in at half time having not been outplayed but lucky not to be down by more. Still, as per usual, it is very hard for a team to play with 10 men and when Petrov is on the pitch, that is what they are effectively doing. As much as we all want him to do well, he has no excuses this season, he had all last season to get up to speed (and blamed the lack of pre-season) and had all summer to get fit with the team. But he is still basically a no show much of the time, he looked to have improved slightly against Newcastle but yesterday was back to woeful and his exclusion for the second half illustrated just what a difference he can make - unfortunately the difference is when he is NOT playing and I hope Martin O'Neill takes heed!
On came Luke Moore and no, I don't think I could tell you the formation if I'm honest, but boy oh boy, did Villa go for the jugular?!? On 51 Ashley Young, who was active and a constant threat all game, had a shot deflected in by Villa fan Knight and off we went. Trouble is, no matter how hard we tried, golden chance after golden chance went to waste. We cannot afford to be that wasteful this season and in many ways it illustrated why we need someone like Jermain Defoe up front. A player of his quality would have had a hattrick yesterday, so go on Villa, splash out, get us an International class striker and watch him shoot us into Europe!
John Carew is a bit of a puzzle still, he scored midweek for Norway v Argentina but for us he missed several decent chances. I can't remember if it was in the first or the second half but he was one on one with the keeper, you'd have to back him to have smashed it into the back of the net but no, he delayed too long and a defender took the ball from his feet. I won't name names as I don't want to cause trouble or stir things, but two players came to the touchline for a quick drink. One turned to the other and asked 'how the f*** did he miss that?' The answer came back 'no idea' with a massive shrug of the shoulders. I hope this doesn't become our downfall this season, good approach work and awful finishing because that puts massive and unfair pressure on the midfield and more importantly the defence.
So all the effort and most of the play, Villa had 60% of the game, but it looked like we were going to have to put up with a draw which lets face it just would not have been good enough, we needed all three points and it looks like Martin O'Neill was only too aware of the fact as he subbed Wilfred Bouma and brought on yet another attacker, this time Shaun Maloney. So there you go, we had Maloney, Harewood (on for Carew), Young, Gabby and Luke Moore on at the same time. I think that is what you call an attacking formation! We were made to wait though, it wasn't until the 92nd minute when Young slotted a great pass to Maloney and the Scott proved just what a bargain he was at £1million. I really hope that Shaun settles at Villa because he could be an absolute gem. None of the hesitation of John Carew's one on one chance, just pure class finishing. 2-1, thank you and goodnight!
Oh, and I've just remembered (!) Luke Moore had a perfectly good goal disallowed as the ref, instead of playing the advantage, blew to give us a free kick and Gareth Barry had one ruled offside which judging by the highlights, was also fine and dandy!
One poster on the Vital Villa forum, DanVilla summed it up though. 'Its a win. I ain't getting overhyped, we still struggle to do the smaller clubs over at VP. Its quite worrying IMO.' Time will tell but despite the entertainment of the game, there were things to worry about and the teams coming up next aren't exactly pushovers!
Must say that Steven Davis looked ten times better than Petrov, that said given the chance I'd probably look ten times better than Petrov and I can't run!
Even on the way home the entertainment didn't stop. A poor bloke came to where his car had been parked only to see an ice cream van in its place and broken glass on the pavement. Someone had obviously nicked his car and whilst others were sympathising with him one fan walked passed and said 'never mind mate, at least you can have a nice ice cream cone' Nothing like a bit of sympathy and that was NOTHING like a bit of sympathy!
Scott Carson 8
Olof Mellberg 6
Martin Laursen 7
Wilfred Bouma 6
Craig Gardner 5.5
Gareth Barry 7
Stiliyan Petrov 3
Ashley Young 8
Nigel Reo-Coker 6.5
John Carew 5.5
Gabriel Agbonlahor 5.5
Luke Moore (on for Petrov 45) 7
Harewood (on for Carew 77)
Maloney (on for Bouma 83) 7