Laursen Rescues Villa Win
1st January 2008, 1720 GMT
Martin Laursen nodded home from an un-marked position in the 84th minute as Aston Villa snatched all 3 points from a lacklustre Spurs side. Here's my match report!
Through circumstances beyond my control I was unable to make it to villa park tonight, so sky it was. I sat down with a glass of wine (no lager left) and a bit of toast (i ate my meat and potato pie yesterday) ready for the match.
There were a couple of changes to the Villa team with Petrov in for Maloney and Luke Moore replacing the still injured John Carew. During Sky Sports` usual coverage of the players lining up in the tunnel, it was interesting to watch Lukey`s face of fear, as he realized he had misplaced his mini mascot.
Villa started in what has become their usual fluent fashion hoofing the ball as high as they could. An early run for the want-away striker Dimitar Berbatov was easily dealt with by Wilfred Bouma. The Bulgarian displayed a similar level of energy and effort as that displayed by Luke Moore, which really tells you what his intentions are regarding club loyalty.
Credit where credit is due though, Stefan`s equally poor brother Luke was on hand as Agbonlahor crossed in low on 4 minutes, great turn by Moore.L to dispatch of Michael Dawson (the hard bit) before slicing his shot left-footed, left of the post, the easy bit mucked up.
Following the odd pointless chase, Luke suddenly turned into the invisible man as Villa looked to plough on with 10.5 men on the pitch.
As Bouma went to take a throw-in two familiar faces from Vital Villa popped up. Fear clapped whilst Randy.stand looked thoroughly miserable. I am not surprised though, wearing his faithful red Villa jacket instead of perhaps dressing up with the weather in mind. Meanwhile the Sky Sports soundman must have been taking a breather, as the technology forgot to mute out the words to that Paul McGrath song, whoops!
20 minutes in Mellberg was adjudged to have fouled Dawson during a corner despite the former Nottingham Forest man looking to take Mellberg`s shirt away from him before the end of 90 minutes. The Swedish bearded wonder made sure that the referee had heard his view on the matter.
Malbranque was booked for a foul on Moore. This was the first time in quarter of an hour I had realised that Moore.Less was even on the pitch!
On 24 minutes Villa had their first real opportunity on goal, a cross from out wide fell to Martin Laursen who took his time to rattle the ball way over the bar for a conversion. Johnny Wilkinson would have been exceptionally proud of an effort that was perhaps easier to score. Andy Gray was kind to the Dane, citing an off putting wild lunge at the floor from a Spurs defender as reason to shift it over the bar.
As half-time approached, Spurs seemed to gain a slight bit of confidence, knocking the ball around but having little outlet as Defoe looked somewhat laid back, Berbatov positively horizontal.
It finally happened for Villa on 40 minutes, with the antics of before it was expected that Mellberg would have been watched like a hawk by the similarly sized Dawson. However for inexplicable reasons the Spurs man decided to play the offside trap, leaving Mellberg free to finish sweetly and to stand completely still, basking in his opposite numbers error.
1-0 and game on, or not, as Dimitar Berbatov finally woke up, completely unmarked to shoot straight at a goalkeeper who made a great save, for someone who had the ball hit right at him. £10million there and then Martin, sign him up now!
Reo Coker stepped in late in the first half with a great tackle as Defoe looked to break free and that was us done for the first time.
According to Sky Sports, Agbonlahor apparently threw up, on the pitch just before the second half got underway. You have to wonder at this point what we are doing playing unwell players, but I`m not, of course, the manager.
It was a slow start to the second half, with Young firing high and wide from about 40 yards, Tom Huddlestone doing similar as a cleared ball (blindly) by Petrov fell sweetly to him 30 from goal. Moore continued his invisible man act until a fairly decent cross effort cut out by Dawson. He was obviously like a proverbial bus, as a corner thrown in deep was headed back into the 6 yard area for Moore.L to put over the bar.
Spurs looked much livelier moving into the hour as they attempted to get back into the game. Villa continued to sit back and looked to be living dangerously as Luke Moore popped up yet again in order to take a great touch, only to clear the ball for a grateful Spurs defence. Marlon could have done that!
The introduction of Robbie Keane to the Spurs side made a massive difference and could have done with Ramos` opposite number doing something to mix up a lethargic looking Villa side, but no changes came!
Moore missed another one with a great clearance from 6 yards central location, stuff Marlon Harewood, for even £2,000 a week I could have done that!
Spurs had a good shout for a penalty turned down by a referee who if he spotted it (and didn`t just guess) made an exceptional eagle eyed decision as Curtis "pub player" Davies made an amazing tackle to dispossess a somewhat grumpy Robbie Keane.
Finally O`Neill makes a change to kill off the game, someone to mix things up and really take it to Spurs with flair and charisma…
…ok I lied, it was Craig Gardner as MON looked to shut up shop, lock it, and go to bed early, a move that soon could have turned out to be disastrous. The only good thing was that he replaced a woeful Luke Moore, who in his good 30 seconds of Sky footage skulking off, failed to acknowledge the 4 or 5 fans that applauded him off the pitch.
The decision to go 4-5-1 soon bit Villa so hard in the arse even I wondered if I could feel it (it turned out to be wind). On 78 minutes Jermaine Defoe finally did something (he`s like Luke Moore, only more talented and more expensive) as he capitalised on some woeful defending with an acrobatic finish that left Scott Carson with no chance. England`s number 1 could have perhaps been on his toes for it, but would have struggled even if ready to have stopped such a great strike.
1-1 looked as it was going to be until Villa were awarded a corner, and Juande Ramos` instructions were either misguided, misinterpreted or ignored as one of the shortest, least experienced players on the pitch was given the task of marking Martin Laursen in the 84th minute.
Even Andy Gray spotted this error, Laursen showing exactly why he`s a powerhouse center back with an awesome finish, a long run and a celebration that has left another Villa forum wondering whether Laursen had words with his manager, who seemed surprisingly unhappy to see come his way.
Villa closed out the game in a professional style, by mucking around in one corner of the pitch. I don`t like that, but that`s my personal taste.
3 points, job done, but like Wigan it was far from pretty.
What can you say about the man who so much has been said before? A revelation and now he's (touch wood) injury free looks set to become a Villa legend. This is of course provided he signs a new contract.
Scott Carson 6
Whether he could have been a bit more alert to Defoe, who knows, he would have struggled to stop it even with advanced warning as it was a good finish.
England's number 1? No, not yet but congratulations on making a save, well done. It's even got it's own thread on the Vital Villa forums!
Following Sky showing the stupid grin on Dawson's face for winning a free kick, it was good to see Melly lap it up no more than 5 yards away from the Spurs defender!
Another great day for the Dane in defence, and a goal as well. Perhaps he could teach our strikers a thing or two about scoring goals?
Solid, reliable and I wasn't worried when he touched the ball.
Distribution is still woeful, still a far better option than Jlloyd ever was though!
Unlike matches gone by, more Claude Makalele than Claude Monet, which is exactly what we need.
If he gets an extended run in the team, I could see how he might just be a star player for us.
Think the lad is running out of energy and perhaps even prior to the Spurs equaliser, could have done with a Berger-type player to replace him.
Gave the Spurs defence problems, didn't really do a lot to threaten Paul Robinson but worked hard unlike...
What O'Neill sees in him over Marlon Harewood I don't know but for Luke Moore, his time is up.
As I said in the forums, shoot him into space. We could probably claim a fee on the insurance! ;-)
Gardner (For Moore) 6
Ok, well it wouldn't have looked exactly like him but for someone supposedly on to close the game down he ran around like a loon, contributing nothing.
Got an extra point because he replaced Moore.
Arsed around in the corner with it nicely, well done Shaun!
Only getting a 5 from me for that, we sat back way too early and were very nearly punished for it.
He also seems to like Luke Moore, which worries me. New signings now please Martin!
You've got to wonder about a club that employs a manager that doesn't speak English. Except perhaps managers in Outer Mongolia.
Good move to bring Keane on who changed the game but could have shown a bit of bravery by dropping horizontaltov who clearly doesn't want to play for Spurs any longer.
If we had his defensive worries, I think we`d be in a similar level of the sticky stuff right now.
Was soft, comfortable, with plenty of legroom to stretch out into, all complete with a lovely bottle of wine next to it. I was warm, I didn't have to queue for a toilet and during half time I was able to watch something else.
Considering he was sitting next to the dugout in the front row, he should have been more cheerful.
Take a coat next time as well Simon!
Did look happy with Laursen and co therefore gets a half point, making him better than Maloney, Gardner, Moore and Carson.
Was trying his hardest to be the voice of impartiality at the final whistle, but his tone of voice spoke louder than his words and put across the message of 'gutted.'
What an idiot!