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Vital Villa's Match Report - Villa v Norwich

Aston Villa
1 - 1
Norwich City

Villa Park


Attendance: 33 184


A cool 27th minute finish from Belgium giant Benteke should have been enough to inspire an Aston Villa side to their first home league win since September 15th. However, this was Villa's most insipid, error ridden outing of the campaign so far, made worse by Joe Bennett's dismissal for a second yellow card in the 54th minute.

It was the Canaries who started brightly though, driven forward by creative wide man Hoolahan, who showed touch, technique and penetration all afternoon, in what was an inspired individual performance. Indeed, it was Hoolahan who should have opened the scoring when he was put through by a neat pass from Holt but found himself bested by the exceptional Guzan, who would prove to be heroic between the Villa sticks all afternoon.

Villa's goal came against the run of play and was taken well. Holman, having sucked Turner and Bassong out of position with some teasing left sided play, allowed Benteke to be found with a quick ball to the centre. Having failed to finish off good chances in his last two games there was no way the Belgium was going to miss again. Ruddy could only watch as he was sent the wrong way by a composed Benteke.

Villa briefly threatened to build on their goal with a brief period of settled play, though individual errors, indecisiveness and a lack of vision through the middle continued to plague their forward momentum, with Delph, Ahmadi or Ireland lacking the forward drive or creativity to feed Villa's attacking play. With the physically dominant Holt leading the Canary front line, Norwich forced themselves back into the game. It was left to Dutch International Vlaar to keep him in check. Overall, Ron Vlaar put in the sort of performance that made Martin Laursen such a legend in these parts. The Villa captain cleared, headed, tackled and brought the ball out from the back with skill and composure throughout the game, though he finds himself behind a Villa midfield who are struggling to understand how to play a simple through ball.

Benteke continued to shine, showing good holding play, work rate and a hunger for the ball. This continued into the start of the second half when the Belgian found himself on the end of a far post effort, though the Norwich keeper was able to meet the ball at the foot of the post denying the Villa striker a near second goal.

The game then changed in Norwich's favour when Joe Bennett showed inexperience in blocking of Elliot Bennett's run down the right. Referee Phil Dowd, perhaps the most despised official ever to grace the Villa Park pitch, promptly reached for a second yellow and his red card, dispatching the young left back to the home dressing room. Despite tactical substitution's from Lambert the inevitable onslaught followed. Neither, Bent, Weimann or Lichaj or the team's tactical reshuffle could prevent the Norwich charge. Bent seemed particular inept, perhaps justifying on this appearance why new boy Benteke is now above him in the rankings.

If not for the majestic Guzan, Norwich would and should have won this game. Instead they were to leave Villa park with a point after Michael Turner headed the Canaries level from a Robert Snodgrass corner.

Set pieces continue to be a thorn in Villa's side. Despite some solid, encouraging work from Lowton, Vlaar and the deputising Herd, Villa reacted far too slowly as a unit too a Norwich short corner, the latter catching Villa off guard. Albrighton, who had a poor afternoon, marked by inaccurate crossing and passing, decided to abandon his role as the man on the far post only to watch as Turner headed the ball down into the corner. For all Villa's good work at the back, they were undone for the second game in a row by yet more poor set piece work. This must be addressed if Villa are to progress. It is simply not good enough to switch of like this after defending so well throughout.

However, the all to familiar pattern of toothless, sideways midfield play, with its miserable creative gaps, continue to thwart Villa, a team who have promising players at the back and international calibre players going forward. Today though they could not even claim that their play was tidy, sharp and well drilled. The errors were all to obvious, exposing a team with seven new first team players who all have a way to go in their understanding of what it means to play together at this level. The communication and reading of the game is just not there as yet even if there are signs that it is developing. A note of caution though: The Barclays Premier League is no proving ground and is far too unforgiving of these sort of errors.

Star Player

Man of the match: Guzan

Room for improvement: Albrighton

Date:Sunday October 28 2012
Time: 10:19AM

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Great report, as per usual. I don't think I can ever muster the energy to get angry (or be surprised) any more. It was awful. Alan Hansen (yeah, fancy watching that again?!) said 'I don't know where Villa go from here, they were so bad today it was embarrassing for them'.... I concur, but I think I know where we are going.
The Fear
28/10/2012 10:20:00
Just avoid being in the relegation places on 1st of Jan then we can bring in 2/3 new players... A LM to take players on and deliver decent service and a MF with some creative pedigree... We are long overdue for an away win and we travel to Sunderland who dont know what a goal is either so Im staying positive I think we will finally get a win up there...
28/10/2012 10:32:00
CDX -- With respect no team is ever 'due' a win away or home. Sides earn wins. Sunderland are a better side than Villa as the table shows. 2 or 3 new players might -- just -- keep Villa in the EPL. However, the nightmare will start afresh next season. Only a grand plan and serious investment will make Villa anything like serious players in the EPL. Even that might not be enough. As for the Champions League forget it. Villa will probably never win a European trophy again. European football is in long term decline before our eyes. Killed by greed.
28/10/2012 11:05:00
An over reaction Villawillriseagain. There is a country mile to go yet. Setting absolutes at this stage is ridiculous in a league in which swings in performance take place rapidly.
28/10/2012 11:07:00
I agree that swings in performance can be rapid but we seem to be depressingly consistent at the moment. What do you think would be the catalyst for an upswing in our performances and results?
28/10/2012 11:53:00
Ireland was probably "lacking in forward drive" because he was actually "in the train shed" all afternoon as the fat controller wants to sell him back to the mainland.
28/10/2012 12:20:00
I thought that Benteke was awesome yesterday and was completely baffled by the decision to take off our best outfield player by a mile? He was the only threat we head going forward and must have won every header he competed for. Bringing on Bent to try and fulfil the same role made no sense to be whatsoever? Guzan was brilliant and the defence was fine aside from Bennet's stupidity. Did anyone else notice Hoolahan pretending to be injured only to quickly rise and cross the ball for their equaliser? It looked very unsportsmanlike indeed. Finally my BIGGEST gripe has to be the midfield. They were lightweight, uninspiring, lethargic, and seemed to think passing the ball to a player in yellow was a good idea. Delph was terrible, KEA not much better. Holman will run all day but has a terrible end product and Marc Albrighton I don't believe is up to Premier League standard. P.S. The freezing weather made it that much worse :/
28/10/2012 12:29:00
I agree with you VWRA but you'd be surprised how often you can predict a game by looking at fixtures and performances... Villa dont deserve a win and are not entitled to a win but we havnt won an away since Wolves and for me Sunderland arnt that great... They are a MON side so we all know they appear to be better than they really are... If we take Fletcher out of the game good luck to them scoring... It will be difficult no doubt and Im not basing my prediction on pure logic but I do think we can win... PL will have this team fired up for Swindon because we were so poor and the small bit of confidence we get will be aided by the fact we wont have huge pressure on the team to perform because we are playing away... The End of Jan is when I will start panicking I am worried but a few new faces with genuine quality should help us kick on for the rest of the season... Its hard to see where things will turn around if we can nab 4 points from the next 4 games, stay out of the bottom three and be competitive against those teams we might start to see something around Xmas... Its more likely that we will be struggling in the bottom six until January and then one or two new positive signing will inspire the team with their ability thats my hope at least...
28/10/2012 12:41:00
Excellent match report.
Pride of Lions
28/10/2012 14:10:00
Correct. Ireland was on the bench. Error on my part. Apologies.
28/10/2012 14:59:00
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