Villa Slaughter Bolton
Attendance: 35 134
Sometimes you come out of a game totally robbed of all spirit for the lack of effort or luck from your team. Luckily yesterday against Bolton wasn't one of those days!!!!
The first 5 - 10 minutes it looked like it was going to be, as many had feared, a rather dull affair with the game probably only going to see one goal and to who would just be a toss of a coin. The accusation against Villa in recent years is that they can play nice football against the passing teams but can't battle it out with the Bolton's of the world who do play hoof ball an awful lot and rely on a strong physical presence. But yesterday Villa showed true grit, spirit and determination.
Bolton took the lead as our fine folks switched off and to be fair nearly doubled their lead after they hit the crossbar and Matty Taylor missed a fab chance. Oh no? No, not at all. From that time onward there was only ever going to be one winner as Villa rallied and a lovely route one goal followed. Martin Laursen, given an extraordinary amount of time on the ball lobbed it forward perfectly for Gabby to bring down and smash in. 1-1.
The second came from a sublime - and yes I do mean sublime - pass from Gareth Barry who in my opinion is back to his scintillating best. Bazza crossed it and Martin Laursen was there to meet it beaten to the goal only by a Bolton player (Kevin Davies who always usually scores against us and to be fair, later he did!). If you look at the replays it is very difficult to see if Davies or Laursen had the last touch so it is a bit harsh not giving it to our boy!
Then came the controversy and to be fair, the game actually needed a bit of spice, the crowd were fairly quiet and the atmosphere muted. Not for long as Gary Cahill handled the ball very very very blatantly, honestly, if you were over at Villa Village you'd have seen the hand ball and awarded a penalty but oh no, the ref L Probert had other ideas. The linesman had raised his flag but soon put it down again. Honestly, if you haven't seen the replays, watch it. I doubt you'll ever see a worse decision.
EVERYONE was up in arms and trust me, from where I sit right by the bench I know that some of the fans suffered more than others as Martin O'Neill in a total fit of rage kicked some mud our way! I don't think he knew he'd done it otherwise I'm sure he'd have apologised. He then took it out on his poor Lucazade bottle, he was totally seething and rightly so, it was a clear penalty and obviously 3-1 would have all but sealed the game for us. Apparently in the tunnel at half time it was like world war three with Gary Megson joining in winding up the Villa coaching staff winking away at the ref... Villa had the last laugh though!
The next goal was wonderfully flighted by Ashley Young to Gabriel Agbonlahor who headed it in. 3-1 job done and those two boys look like they are playing for fun - which is how it should be.
We weren't done though, at last the Villa faithful got the sort of home performance promised for so long where again Gareth Barry passed to Gabby who this time turned provider for Young.
Kevin Davies popped up to score -as he often does against Villa - a decent goal but that wasn't going to spoil Villa's Christmas party. What a great game and what a massive shame my mate got stuck at Warwick driving up from London and had to turn tail and go home. Next time DC, next time!
Brad Friedel 6
Luke Young 7
Carlos Cuellar 6
Curtis Davies 7
Martin Laursen 8
Gareth Barry 9
Stiliyan Petrov 7
Steve Sidwell 6.5
James Milner 6.5
Ashley Young 9
Gabby Agbonlahor 9
Nigel Hokey Cokey (on for Milner 68)
Marlon Harewood (on for Ashley Young 81)