Villa 2-1 Burnley - Match Report
Attendance: 34, 618
Firstly, I feel compelled to publically thank The Fear for allowing me to begin to write regular home match reports from now on. I hope that I can repay his generosity with entertaining reports for the Vital Villa public.
Onto the game, and Villa started very brightly indeed, with Ireland and Young reversing roles to give each other a chance to score but both suffered at the hands of solid Burnley defending, which couldn`t be said of Burnley`s last visit to Villa Park in April. It was at this point that the two stoners sat behind me proceeded to clonk me right in the back of the head because they, seemingly, wanted me to take my head off so that it didn`t get in the way of their hand gestures towards the referee. I was at great pains to tell them that it couldn`t be done, and I can only presume that that was why they tried to do it for me.
I feel like I can say with some justification that we should have been one up before half-time. A lovely passage of play resulted in Ashley Young fizzing a ball across the area that Nigel Reo-Coker simply needed to tap-in, but a weak shot meant that the Burnley goalkeeper made a fairly easy save, before a mini scramble ensued that ended in twinkle-toes Barry Bannan shooting poorly at the 'keeper to ensure that the game remained goalless.
After half-time Steve Sidwell glanced a header just wide that had the aforementioned stoners screaming down my ear to tell him how erm... 'rubbish` shall we say?` he was, but then Brad Senior was forced into a fantastic double-save of his own, keeping out Burnley two dangermen of the night, Martin Paterson and Jay Rodriguez. Little did we know it at the time, but his work wouldn`t stop there.
Our new French gaffer Monsieur Houllier then decided that changes were in order, and I have to say that I agreed with him. Emile Heskey and Stuart Downing came on for the disappointing Stephen Ireland and Barry Bannan.
The moment those two set foot onto the pitch signified the near-conclusion of a very satisfying tactical shift from him, and we finally got to see the rewards of it when Eric Lichaj clipped the ball for Marc Albrighton to subsequently touch on for Ashley Young. Another low ball was driven into the box for Heskey to finish past the 'keeper from close range, cue a relief-led pandemonium from around 32,000 Villa fans. I remember shout "just hold-on to the lead now Villa", at this point, but that didn`t work out very well now, did it?
Disbelief via gasps spread around Villa Park like wildfire when Heskey received what I thought was a very harsh yellow card for what looked like a fair challenge at the time. The resulting free-kick was passed to the edge of the penalty area before being clipped in and nodded past Friedel by Clarke Carlisle. At this point I remember thinking how much I wanted to go home and write this report up so I could please Fear by getting it done quickly, but fate prevented me from doing so.
Instead, I got to watch Downing make up for an awful second-half skew by sending one right into the top corner from the edge of the penalty area even though the 'keeper managed to get a hand to it. I tried not to tell the lads to hold on again, I thought they`d have got the message by now!
As it turned out, the game was far from finished, and nerves suddenly began to jangle as Marc Albrighton appeared to push Wade Elliot in the back as he was about to shoot. I think Elliot made a bit of a meal of it, but he obviously felt the touch as Albrighton`s arms went out, and he went down. There was little choice for the referee but to send him off. The free-kick that followed in the aftermath brought a good save out of Friedel.
Tyrone Mears again brought out Brad Friedel`s quality despite a few murmurs about his age not-so-long-ago, and the game was finally see out after King Carlos headed Chris Iwelumo`s rebound header off the line.
As the final whistle blew, I thought that, regardless of performance, as a bare minimum, we should all be very pleased that Villa are in the next round, and I think, by-and-large, that we are.
I made my way down the steps of the famous Holte, thinking, "Finally, I`ve got something to write about now"...
Brad Friedel 8
Eric Lichaj 6
Ciaran Clark 6
Carlos Cuellar 7
Habib Beye 6
Marc Albrighton 5
Nigel Reo-Coker 6
Steve Sidwell 4
Barry Bannan 5
Ashley Young 6
Stephen Ireland 5
Stuart Downing 6
James Collins N/A
Emile Heskey 7