Villa v Arsenal Match Report
Attendance: 42 585
I've only just come back down to earth! I don't usually get over excited by a draw but to go two down against the run of play against Arsenal, you would usually expect it to be game over, however this current Villa team has more fight and bottle than any team I can remember in our Premiership history.
The first 35 minutes or so Arsenal looked a spent force and Villa far more than just pretenders to the crown. We outplayed them, if this was a boxing match, the ref would have halted proceedings as we battered them, however as much as we fought, we could not get the sucker punch ... why the hell have I started going on about boxing...?! What I mean is as much as we huffed and puffed... oh God, now I've gone to the three little piggies, this match report really isn't working out the way I'd planned! Look, we shot and shot and shot but the ball just would not go in. We hit the woodwork three times, had a ball miraculously cleared off the line (quite how still remains a puzzle to me despite having watched it now on the highlights) and shots deflecting just wide. Everything but a goal.
It is no exaggeration, as you know I never, ever ever ever, not in a million years, would exaggerate, to say that we could have been four up within the first 40 minutes but Arsenal did what Arsenal are good at, got one chance and took it. To be fair Nigel Hokey-Cokey, who had a good game at right-back apart from this error, should have cleared the ball but tried to play it out instead. That bad break could really have crushed the team and to go in at half time 1 down was a real blow but you still had the feeling that Villa would be the happiest of the two teams in the dressing room. More of the same in the second half then? Well, no, Arsenal were quick off the blocks and got a second. To be fair Zat Knight and Curtis Davies were pretty much left standing as Diaby got around them and scored. 49 mins gone, 3 billion shots by the Villa but 2-0 to Arsenal was the score. You'd really expect that to be game over, not many come back from 2-0 down against Arsenal, just ask Chelsea! However Villa have more about them these days and seem to have a never-say-die attitude.
Villa got back into it with another well taken Gareth Barry penalty - his 50th goal for Villa - after Gabby Agbonlahor was brought down in the box. Pretty much everyone apart from Whingey Wenger could see it was a penalty and having watched the replays since returning, it certainly was deserved. Credit to the ref's assistant as I'm not sure the ref was totally sure.
That turned the tied as it has to be said up to that point Arsenal in the second half had seemed in control and were playing MUCH better than we'd allowed them to in the first half. As time drifted on it started to look more and more unlikely to become a draw though and when MON once again decided his options on the bench weren't good enough, you couldn't help think it wasn't going to be our day. Then Zat Knight appeared to be moved up front as a striker to play alongside Gabby who had been pretty isolated all game and the lifelong Villa fan (no, Michael Neville didn't make a return!) scored in front of the Holte End and not a usual scrappy defender type goal either, this was a well taken shot. How good must it feel to score in front of the Holte where you used to stand as a kid?!
Game over, a deserved draw and to be fair the Villa could feel the most aggrieved at not getting all three points after the chances we had in the first half. Job done. Bring on Hull !
That said, I'm not sure I can take anymore of this, I think a few of us nearly had heart attacks throughout that game. What fun!
Brad Friedel 6
Luke Young 6
Nigel Hokey-Cokey 7
Zat Knight 7
Curtis Davies 6.5
Gareth Barry 7
Steve Sidwell 6
Stiliyan Petrov 7
Ashley Young 6.5
James Milner 6.5
Gabby Agbonlahor 6.5