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Laursen Rescues Villa Win

Aston Villa
2 - 1

Villa Park

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.

Good half

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.

Star Player

Martin Laursen

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.

Player Ratings

Scott Carson 6

A 6/10 that Carson has actually deserved this week. One bit of miscommunication with Mellberg, one kick that goes in the 'effin awful' box, however two good stops that were right at him.

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!

Mellberg 7.5

I thought Mellberg did just fine at right back today and popped up for a great great goal.

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!

Laursen 8.5

Loses half a point for thinking he was playing Rugby by flashing what should have been a relatively simple finish over the bar.

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?

Davies 7

Stunning tackle on Keane that the referee got spot on to wave away the penalty protests.

Solid, reliable and I wasn't worried when he touched the ball.

Bye Zat!

Bouma 6.5

Did a job but got caught out for pace and I don't think he'll be first choice left back if we can pick up a faster one in either January or the summer.

Distribution is still woeful, still a far better option than Jlloyd ever was though!

Barry 6.5

Good corner converted for the goal, did ok in central midfield but not the match-winning performances that saw him selected for England.

Reo-Coker 6.5

Gave the ball away a bit, made some silly tackles but overall a decent enough performance.

Unlike matches gone by, more Claude Makalele than Claude Monet, which is exactly what we need.

Petrov 7

Gets a 7/10 from me because considering he has been injured 'again' did pretty well and actually managed a shot on target at a point where Villa were struggling to shoot at all.

If he gets an extended run in the team, I could see how he might just be a star player for us.

Young 6.5

Tried his heart out on that left wing but was guarded well by Spurs.

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.

Agbonlahor 7

Threw up in the second half, not sure why he was still on the pitch.

Gave the Spurs defence problems, didn't really do a lot to threaten Paul Robinson but worked hard unlike...

Moore.L 4

There will be Lukey fans who say 4 is harsh on account he had at least 4 attempts at goal during the match. Sod em`, the issue I have with those 4 attempts was that none of them were on target, and one of them looked as if Moore.L would have been better off wearing the #4 shirt for Spurs.

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

Had we cut the head off a chicken and let it loose it would have looked just like Craig Gardner.

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.

Maloney 5

On in the 84th minute, not a lot he was going to even be allowed to do by that point.

Arsed around in the corner with it nicely, well done Shaun!

Manager Rating

Martin O'Neill 5/10

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!

Opponent Rating

Juande Ramos 4/10

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.

My Seat


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.

Happy Days


Randy.stand 6.5/10

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.

Jamie Redknapp

Jamie Redknapp 0.5/10

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!

Date:Tuesday January 1 2008
Time: 8:27PM

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Please what ever money sign Martin and Olaf up.
silkie villain
01/01/2008 20:40:00
Totally agree with that match report, Luke was awful. The 2 centre halves looked fantastic to be fair (apart from a 5 minute panic attack). I get the feeling Zat may not figure too prominently from now on! NRC was very good today at the ugly work, and Petrov worked his nuts off. Mellberg made 2 brilliant tackles in the 1st half to stop spurs breaking away. We nearly paid for not finishing our chances again, but we deserved a little luck in the end.
01/01/2008 20:45:00
Was very impressed with Gabby,he led the line really well and is getting better and better he was winning free's when there was nothing on and worked really hard.Laursen is a legend.
01/01/2008 20:52:00
laursen is a legend. his celebration at the end with the holte shows that he loves the club and wants to stay. sign him up martin!! plus paul robbo chant was funny and he took it pretty well.
01/01/2008 20:58:00
Thanks for the "I hate Luke Moore" report. Maybe if you had been there you will have seen a slightly more average game from Luke than Sky obviously showed. Petrov's 2nd half performance was far worse than your biased report indicated.Petrov picked up a knock in the first few seconds of the 2nd half, and then suffered with lack of pace for the remainder of the game. MON nearly lost us this game with his 2nd half tactics and not being able to answer Ramos' superior tactical awareness. Playing Gabby up front on his own after taking Moore off was poor, then to move Barry to LB when taking Bouma off was even a worse decision. MON got out of jail today with a goal against the run of play. Overall a good Christmas , and an improvement on the DOL & Doug era, so UP THE VILLA, 2008 looks good.
01/01/2008 21:01:00
Forgot to say how good Curtis played along with Olly & Laursen. Must also mention NRC's improved performances of late. Moore was not great and maybe we can buy better, but he did not deserve the slating in the report above.
01/01/2008 21:04:00
Good summary spoilt by your assasination of Luke Moore who actually got a good reception from the Villa fans when leaving the pitch.He looked like he was trying hard to me.Television misses alot of hard running off the ball to close down space. Part of the problem is that we continue to the play the ball up to Luke as if he is John Carew which he isn't.Unfortunately i cannot see him in the same team as Gabby unless Gabby takes up a wider role .I am not saying that we should push Gabby wide just to accommodate Luke and maybe a new club is what he needs. However we need to get behind every player who pulls the shirt on(glad you couldn't get to the game).
01/01/2008 21:18:00
Hear, Hear mike33. Maybe a bit more support for Luke would improve his perfomances. Stay away Murph.
01/01/2008 21:27:00
Agree with skilkie villain, get olof and laursen signed to new deals. Also bring in a top drawer striker, he'd have a field day with the service we provided in the first half, we really should have had 3 and put the game to bed in the first 45.
The Fear
01/01/2008 21:28:00
Thought Moore was average at best today and it does surprise me having brought him in that Marlon doesn't get a chance at all. Something must be seriously up there? Thought Petrov had a really good game judging by the fact he is only just back from injury so surprised at the comments from holteender43. I do agree though that the tactics in the second half were off and going 4-5-1 just seemed insane, could have been very costly. But hey, we got all that matters, the 3 points. Thoroughly enjoyed it as well.
The Fear
01/01/2008 21:30:00
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