Villa Beat Blackburn At Canter (FA Cup)
Attendance: 25 453
Blimey, I thought global warming meant less freezing winter days? Evidently not having frozen my.... toes (?) off v Liverpool on Tuesday night a half empty Villa Park on Saturday in the FA Cup was also cold, cold, cold. At least this time the robin redbreast had the sense not to make an appearance!
The performance in a cup game never really bothers me as long as we win but at least in the first half v Blackburn Rovers Villa were the only team really in the game and that was with a much changed team.
So nice to see we do now have some strength in depth and maybe the way they played will show Villa boss Martin O'Neill that he can shuffle the pack with a little bit more regularity and still get a result?
Funny game, in some ways, including the attendance, it was an average cup tie, in another there were two penalties, one saved, a red card and two great goals by Villa. Typical FA Cup really!
Villa started very brightly and all the attacking momentum in the first half appeared to be Villa and when Nathan Delfouneso opened the scoring in the 12th minute with a perfectly placed header from an inch perfect Ashley Young cross, it was more than deserved.
Villa doubled their lead in the 37th minute, again from a header, this time from the most unlikely of sources, Carlos 'sensibly growing his beard back as we had bad luck when he shaved and this nickname is too long and will never catch on' Cuellar again from an Ashley Young cross.
So strange that some of us are looking at Ashley Young as not being on top form yet this season and yet he was instrumental in both goals. Shame that he missed a really good chance whilst one on one with their keeper to put the game out of sight. Now my brain is somewhat frozen but I think that was before the 2nd goal, I could be wrong. This lad has so much to offer and the one thing I did notice yesterday was despite not being fully on song, he didn't once hide, he was always getting the ball and does - as proved from his two goal producing crosses - have the quality touch that most players only dream about.
A rather soft but in my opinion just penalty to Blackburn was conceded by Nigel Hokey-Cokey . Up steps Brad Guzan to make a great save, you really can't complain at that, what a record he has for saving penalties!
Still, Villa being Villa really couldn't do things the easy way and Brad in the second half unfortunately had a little fumble from a cross/corner (forget now) which led to a goal. We all thought - including the players by the looks of it - that it was going to be ruled a foul but having watched the re-play, no complaints really. 2-1 and maybe Blackburn - who by that time were down to ten men and seemingly out of it, could push us to a replay? The sending off was a strange one, the yucky character Diouf going through Habib Beye at the corner flag when there was simply no need. Beye tried to keep Diouf on, international team mate or not, that was wrong and having seen the replay the ref had no alterative.
Villa battled through the second half with less flow and attacking footie than the first but even when 2-1 it didn't seem we were under that much threat - although obviously it only takes a moment for the opponents to get a break. Luckily they didn't and Villa got a late penalty with John Carew (on for Heskey) being bowled over in the box to earn the pen slotting it in with much ease and a virtual tap!
3-1, worthy winners and into the fourth round we go.
Oh, for those wondering why the very impressive youngster Fabian Delph was replaced by the far less than impressive (sadly as I thought his signing was a good one at the time) Steve Sidwell, MON explained in an interview after the game that the former Leeds star had been on his sick bed all week and even on the Friday had seemed a doubt, so he was only able to manage the first 45. Blimey, if that was him at half pace, we really do have a gem there!
Villa face Blackburn Rovers again on Tuesday night, does this win give us any advantage? Not really no, both teams were quite extensively changed and Big Sam admitted his focus this month is getting Rovers to the final. Still think Villa will edge it over the two legs though.
Not sure the ratings have that much relevance as all that matters is the cup win but lets give it a shot.
Brad Guzan 6
Stephen Warnock 7
Carlos Cuellar 7.5
Habib Beye 6.5
James Collins 7
Ashley Young 7
Fabian Delph 7
Nigel Reo-Coker 7.5
Nathan Delfouneso 7
Emile Heskey 6.5
John Carew (on for Delfouneso 75) 6.5
Steve Sidwell (on for Delph at half time) 5.5