Villa 1-1 Everton - Match Report
I like Everton. I have a lot of respect for them and I definitely have a lot of respect for the job David Moyes has done at Goodison. I think that they, along with us, are one of the two historically major clubs who have lost the most to the 'Superclub` trend that has afflicted the top 6 in the past 18 months - 2 years, although our demise has been somewhat self-imposed by a board who lacks footballing experience. I also kind of like the fact that they can`t seem to beat us that much, but I wouldn`t wan to alienate any Scousers too much!
To be honest, I had hoped to report on the claret and blues storming to a Robbie Keane inspired 3 points, but this didn`t happen for a variety of reasons, mostly that Keane himself only played about 9 minutes. I`m not sure what the general reaction to his signing has been, as I`ve been away from the forums for a while, but I am happy with it. The way I see it, we`ve got a player with experience who has a lot of ability in to help us get out of a bit of short-term trouble. I don`t think anyone can really moan at that.
We learnt 4 things I believe today. The first, as if it`s one we didn`t know already, was that Shay Given really is an absolutely superb 'keeper. I genuinely believe that only the very best can come in from the doldrums like he did this afternoon and put in a performance like that. If it hadn`t been for him, we could quite conceivably have lost the game by a big margin, and the defence seemed a wee bit sharper with him commanding it too.
Secondly, Stephen Warnock is more of a liability than we first thought. After a positive-ish start to his rejuvenation back when the season was just a game or two old, I thought that there were some good signs there. But he has slipped back into the mistake prone nuisance that was always lurking there somewhere. The sad thing is that I can actually remember when he was a half-decent player, but those days seem a world away now. We might need to have him marked at set-pieces and free-kicks from now on.
Next is that there are a seemingly ever increasing number of fans who are willing to vote with their feet (and money), and I don`t blame them one jot. Throw any excuse at me that you want, it was cold, it was just after New Year/Christmas, whatever. The fact is that the most-played fixture in English football history today attracted only 31,000 fans. That is a sad indictment on the state of Aston Villa and English football in general.
Lastly, is that Stephen Ireland is finally showing just how good a player he can be. The player from 2008 is finally starting to get back there again, but this time in a claret and blue instead of blue and white shirt. If he continues to supply Bent like he did today, we`ll have more than enough to make sure we don`t go down.
Not that you`d have known that though with the start to the game we made. I commented to the people around me that it was quite flat. Neither team looked particularly dangerous, with even Everton only creating chances because we let them.
A Leighton Baines cross that was met by everyone`s favourite Man Utd reject Louis Saha needed a brilliant save to keep the scores level, and it was shortly after this point that the lovable Warnock came almightily close to smashing a well-placed bullet header into the top corner past… Shay Given. Not quite what we hoped for, but at least he proved that he could be a good goalscoring threat.
There wasn`t much else worth mentioning that happened in the first half, which was probably best summed up by the fact that most people were pleased that we weren`t a goal down.
Everton continued to push after the break when Affro Man nearly scored after the gravitational pull from his hair diverted the ball goalwards, but Shay Given was again on hand to rescue the Villa.
Then came the Villa goal after the Toffees came unstuck with some bad defending (sorry, I couldn`t resist). A Marc Albrighton cross wasn`t properly cleared and Ireland brought the ball down majestically and slid it across to Bent for the slightly messy but effective finish.
Things were looking fairly good at that point until the introduction of Victor An Itchy Bee. Robbie Keane`s American clubmate Landon Donovan was given the freedom of Villa Park and ran the whole length of the pitch to play it through to the striker, who finished well.
When Keane eventually made his fated Villa debut, given the amount of times he`s been linked with the club throughout his career, we were piling on the pressure but couldn`t quite produce anything to show for it. Indeed, Villa were lucky to hang on to a point as Given had to make another solid save.
So, with that, the game became something that wasn`t about Robbie Keane`s debut, but about taking a small step to resolving the horrific home form Villa have shown recently. It wasn`t a fantastic performance by any stretch of the imagination, but a positive step ahead of the Wolves game next week. We can be confident I think, because Wolves have been so inconsistent this season that they don`t play well for 2 games in a row, and their 'good` performance was today. We`ve been better away recently, so there`s a bit there for us to hope with!