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Villa v Stoke: Match Report

Aston Villa
1 - 0
Stoke City

Villa Park

19th December 2009

Attendance: 35,829


Well, it seems that Villa really can do no wrong at the moment. It was by no means the most attractive of wins that we've been treated to of late. Infact, It was a game that before the turn of December, could have proven a lot more tricky for Martin O'Neill to navigate.

I must confess, I've been one of the many guilty of getting carried away with these performances latley. I stuck with a bold prediction of 4-0 before the game but in reality, the performance was far short of achieving such a score line.

That said, it was no poor performance either.

If anything Stoke started the better of the two teams, passing the ball well. It took Villa 10 minutes to really get into the game and from then on, slowly started to take control of the game.

The players clearly set out their intentions early on though with Dunne, Heskey, Petrov & Milner all having decent attempts in the opening half an hour. Petrov's was probably the finer of the attempts which forced Villa old boy, Sorenson, into a fine double save with Young's rebounded follow up.

Stoke gave us a scare though when Sidibe rose to meet an Etherington cross and slotted the ball in the let. Lukily, he was adjudged to have fouled Warnock and the goal was over ruled. It seems the news hadn't registered with two particular Stoke fans until at last the 73rd minute as they stupidly jumped the last first of seats and made a right show of themselves just behind the hoardings. Needless to say, it was comical when they realised their error.

By the time half time came about you could sense that if one team was to go on and take the game, then it would only be Villa.

In the 61st minute Villa's dominance finally paid off when Carew scored his 5th goal of the campaign. Ashley Young was again provider as he his cross from the right wing found Carew who beat Faye and headed home past Sorenson.

Carew's over zealous celebration saw him kick out at the corner flag which flew into the Lower Holte hitting a fan. I don't believe the fan was injured but Carew returned at the end of 90 minutes to hand the fan his shirt by way of apology.

From here on out it seemed a case of if Villa would increase their lead but as the game was reaching it's climax, Fuller saw a decent attempt dip just over the top of Friedel's bar and Villa saw out the three points.

It was a game that we could have just as easily drawn or lost so credit for the victory goes to Villa's high confidence, after some famtastic away results over the last week.

With Arsenal & Liverpool up next, the three points were by far the most important factor. If we can get 4 points from these games then that really could be the catalyst for a great second half to the season.

Star Player

Luke Young - Defended brilliantly and was a true rock at the back. Couldn't be happier for him as he looks to solidify his place in the team with the returning Collins & Davies both looking to get back involved in the first team action.

Player Ratings

Brad Friedel (6)

Not really had much to do and went the duration of the game largely untested due to another impressive performance from the defence.

Luke Young (9)

Man of the match. Resolute defending and not shy to get forward in support of Ashley Young & Stewart Downing.

Carlos Cuellar (8)

Yet another starring role from the Spaniard. As he fights for a place in the Spanish World Cup squad he was only narrowly pipped to the man of the match by Young.

Richard Dunne (8)

Saw a decent effort fly just over from a dipping Stewart Downing freekick early on. Also another defender putting in a brilliant defensive shift.

Stephen Warnock (6.5)

It says something when the worst performer in the defence put in far from a bad performance. Played well but was out shone by his defender colleagues

Stewart Downing (6.5)

Particularly remember him running at full pelt to track back and make a great sliding tackle to win back the ball in the opening 15 minutes. Again showing glimpses just how good he can be when up to 100% fitness.

Stylian Petrov (7)

Will undoubtedly become the unsung player of the match. Didn't put a foot wrong and made some great advancing balls. Had a long range effort that could have just as easily gone in.

James Milner (7.5)

I know we can't expect him to score or create something every game but I was still pleased with him. Some of passes truly are remarkable and is not adverse to getting back to help the team

Ashley Young (7)

An improved performance from Ashley to say the least. Provided the ball that Carew scored from and put in a hell of an effort. Lets hope he can keep improving to get back to his best.

Gabby Agbonlahor (6.5)

Another quiet one for Gabby. Wasn't his most influential of games and probably should have been involved a bit more in play. Had a decent attempt and was taken down when in a position to do something.

Emile Heskey (5.5)

Hard to judge after only playing just over the 20 minute mark. Teed up Petrov for his 20 yard shot and had a decent enough effort of his own. A shame he had to go off as he's been showing steady improvement since the Burnley game.

John Carew (7)

(for Heskey, 23) Scored the only goal of the game with a header from Ashley Young's cross. You could see how much the goal meant to him with his celebration. Not a Bolton-like performance, but the winning goal nonetheless.

Steve Sidwell (2.76)

(for Downing, 81) Had two chances to double the scoreline late into the day but failed to hit the target on both occasions. At the very least he should be hitting the target and making the keeper work.

Manager Rating

Unsure as to what O'Neill would do with the team before kick off. Stick with the team when playing so well, or rest some key players ahead of the next two big clashes? O'Neill did indeed start with the same team so lets see how he handles the next two vital games before we judge.

Fan Report

I would have liked to have seen a sell out. The fact, we were a good 7,500 short I can only put down to Christmas. With the Arsenal away allocation and the Liverpool home encounter already sold out, we have to continue this with Villa Park sell outs in the new year.

Even with the empty seats, the fans that did make it were making some noise. From where I was sitting at least.

I perhaps would have liked less Birmingham songs but now I'm just being picky.

Special mention to the Stoke fans who despite the 'Sh*t support my lord' and 'We forgot that you were here' chants, they really did do well to make some noise of their own.

The fact I couldn't make out what they were singing is either due to my poor hearing or their poor accents. Either way, I was impressed with their travelling numbers.

Half Time

A chicken balti pie. Thanks for asking!

And a pint of Carlsberg courtsey of Meyouldy. Cheers for that Don. Would you like your pink hat back?

Date:Sunday December 20 2009
Time: 6:49PM

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not quite sure we were dominant at all. i was impressed with stoke to be honest but it was another 3 points which was great. good to not play well and win but i think we were slightly fortunate to get all 3 points. what a great week to be a villa fan
20/12/2009 19:53:00
I'd say fortunate is pushing it a bit. By all means Stoke made things difficult but by and large we were the marginally better team.
20/12/2009 20:24:00
A fantastic win!! OK the performance wasn't great - but we would have drawn or lost this last season. After the two great away results it was so important that we won this one to make the most. Stoke are tough to beat - and their fans were great, we had some great banter with them in the Lower North Stand. Defence was immense again, and everybody worked their balls off. A very happy evening!! Brian Little Walks on Water
20/12/2009 21:34:00
You could tell that their was some good banter going on even from the top of the Holte even if it wasn't always possible to understand exactly what was being sung!! I love Milner. What I love about him is the fact that he is absolutely everywhere. Constantly making himself available and in the right place at the right time to pick up loose balls and regain possession. Then when he does get it he always does something progressive with it. We certainly have a legend in the making.
Adam Deuce
20/12/2009 22:40:00
Two big games next week If we come through them unscathed it will truly be a merry christmas. Ive got a feeling we wont lose either of the games and would def like us to beat liverpoo as I would like the fat waiter to eat his 'we will definately be in the top 4' words. UTV
20/12/2009 23:51:00
surely fortunate is fair, the stoke goal shouldn't have been disallowed... As a spurs fan im very much enjoying the race for top 4, should be close right to the end hope spurs get top 4 but it its not us I hope villa make it not city. Good to see Downing back on the pitch too, how are you lining up now? Downing/milner in the middle?
21/12/2009 01:46:00
the stoke goal was correctly disallowed....the guy is clattering all over him....
21/12/2009 07:00:00
in a manner in which Big Heskey or Big Carew would never do - right!
21/12/2009 08:24:00
7th heaven at the moment, the game v Sunderland was a banana skin but this one even more so after all the recent hard work. Such a good result that.

Merlin, all strikers 'try it on' but we rarely if ever get away with anything so don't see why our opponents should.
The Fear
21/12/2009 10:06:00
Never thought that game would be easy and if Stoke had had a proper striker on the pitch for 90 minutes I think the result may have been different. Stoke fans? For one, Stoke isn't that far away so I'm not sure why we are surprised by their number. Secondly their chants to Gabby - a la Cardiff - were a disgrace
21/12/2009 13:50:00
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