Villa Cruise Past Ajax
Attendance: 36 657
I've decided to do something different instead of my usual match report/ramble and so have lifted comments from James06, BarosBarryBouma, Rosetta Stoned and Deanovilla (including his ratings) from our message board.
Me, lazy? How very dare you!
For me the night was great, we played well enough to always be on top of a decent Ajax team. Our defence was immense and if Martin Laursen doesn't win our man of the match vote, then I'm going to over ride it and declare him Vital man of the match anyway! lol. The man is immense and an example to all our players on how to give 110% every second on the pitch.
I was also proud of Gareth Barry grabbing a goal, I had requested it with the people sitting around me to give him confidence to settle back to his top form, next up my request is for James Milner to do the same as I think he'll become a great player for us and hopefully Nicky Shorey because the odd thick boo boy has already replaced Stiliyan Petrov (as he cannot be booed for his performances now) with Shorey who to me is settling in ok and doing more good than bad. Strange that some HAVE to have someone to attack, my idea of being a fan is supporting the team...!
Anyway, on to the others comments:
Milner is definitely taking time to settle, but I would urge all Villa fans to give him time. His career has moved very quickly, he now has a big price tag hanging over him, but lets not forget he also has a hopefully long and potentially great future ahead of him. I remember people wanting us to get rid of Petrov after a season - now he is indispensible IMO. If Milner turns out like that he could have over 10 years of success and become a Villa Park great, so give him a break.
Most of us knew when MON came to Villa that his style wasn't necessarily pretty, but the results would come - I personally am happy with that. How often will we use the phrase 'job-done'? If it takes us to Istanbul - who's complaining? As previously mentioned, it's worked for Liverpool - who I will point out, I chose to watch a documentary on Paris with Griff Rhys-Jones, rather than their champions league match this week, but will their fans care?
I thought last night that Villa were fantastic in spells, it's nice to see that the squad is totally adaptable following on from Saturdays draw with Pompey. It was a joy to see Shorey and Luke Young (who for me were both magnificent) overlapping and bombing on. I can't remember the last time we saw such energy and willingness to get forward from Villa full backs?
Overall, last night was great, another 'I was there' moment. Admittedly, with it not being 'knockout' at this stage, the atmosphere maybe lacked that unique spine tingling bite of the Inter Milan/Athletico Madrid clashes - but that will come, but to do so, we need to win these games. Ajax are a massive club, stylish in their play, and certainly no strangers or mugs at this level. They couldn't cope with the Villa last night, everyman played his part, it could've been more admittedly. But that won't stop me telling my kids and grandkids of the day we put Ajax to the sword.
Pleased with the performance and delighted with the result.
Young (A) and Shorey seem to be building up an impressive partnership on the left flank, Laursen and Cuellar looked solid at the back and dangerous at set pieces, Young (L) looks like just the ticket at right back and our engine room of Barry, Reo-Coker and Petrov was as businesslike as ever.
Milner showed flashes of talent - he's not as quick as Ashley or Gabby by any means, but he's comfortable passing and striking the ball with both feet and he's adding a lot more balance to the team alongside Young (L). Both he and the team need to adjust - we're so used to having everything go through Young (A) or Carew it will take time to start working to Milner and Young (L)'s attacking strengths and bringing them into the game more, but when we get it right we'll have options right across the park.
Great header by Laursen for our goal, even better header for the Dutch goal. Barry should have done better and at least challenged for the header, but he made amends in typical style just before half time.
Was concerned at the start of the game by the absence of King John, but Gabby did a good but thankless job ploughing a lone furrow up front in his absence. We've set ourselves up nicely in the group, will be a completely different game at home against Zilina who will most likely park eleven men behind the ball and look for a point, so we need to make sure we take something away from Prague or Hamburg to make sure of qualification.
I am a very happy man. I witnessed one of the best villa performances id seen in a very long time last night. We defended like Utd, had the confidence of arsenal, the guile of a championship side in a cup final and the passion of every claret and blue blooded villa fan up and down the country.
I was proud to be a villa fan last night, so much so i rang for some room service at midnight to celebrate. I can find one or two negatives including lack of attacking tactics, but that all pales into insignificance with the attitude and performance we put on last night. If this was Championship manager, my post match team talk would be set to ' I want a performance like that in every match!'
If we play like that against teams like UTD and arse(very similar in passing style to Ajax) we will get thos results all season long. Just need to keep that ball rolling now
Deanovilla who is a nice guy because he bought me a beer last night said:
Thought we were excellent tonight. Really first class. We restricted Ajax to 1 shot at goal, plus a goal from a corner. Not bad really. We completely bossed the game from start to finish. Ajax were pretty but I never felt like they would score another goal.
Shorey had his best performance by far in a Villa shirt. Him and Young linked up superbly down the left. Barry made us tick as always, Petrov once more was excellent, Laursen a rock.
2 lowlights... Cuellers and Milners distribution. They both had good games, but they gave the ball away to cheaply at times and Milners crossing was poor.
Ratings below by Deanovilla...
Friedel - 7
Young - 7
Shorey - 8
Cueller - 7
Laursen - 8
Milner - 7
NRC - 7
[looked very upset coming off..! JF]
Petrov - 8
Barry - 8
Young - 8
Gabby - 6