Vital Villa Match Report. Villa Away To QPR
Attendance: 17 387
In a season of living dangerously, Aston Villa used up a good bit of luck today picking up a vital point at Loftus Road. With the cameras and microphones all pointing in Rednapp's the sight of Aston Villa climbing away from the bottom three went largely unnoticed, as Lambert's Limes spoilt both QPR and the media's day in refusing to concede a winning goal. Much credit then to dogged defending from a youthful Villa defence, aided by both the base of the near post, the bar and a man of the match performance from American Goaltender, Bradley Guzan.
Looking on, Shay Given may now be wondering when his next first team chance will come for if Christian Benteke is the monster up front, then Guzan is surely the giant between the sticks. However, as outstanding a performance as this was, when the man between the sticks is the stand out player you are entitled to ask why.
Although Villa took the lead early with a pearl of a strike from Holman -the Australian player of the year, beating deputising Rob Green from a full 20 yards- it took QPR just 10 minutes to equalize, Jamie Mackie heading in Diakite's inviting cross after leaving the Villa back four flat footed. Having opened their account QPR began to take the game to Villa. Guzan soon found himself, collecting, clearing and saving from close range.
QPR were presented with two glorious chance to take the lead, both of which falling to mercurial ball wizard Shaun Wright-Phillips. His first was a one-on-one with the Villa Keeper, though Guzan saved brilliantly. His second was a peach of an effort that had the Villa keeper beaten though the Hoops man was denied when the ball came back off the base of the post. Villa seemed to have no answer, other than a Benteke header which found the net, though the Belgian was ruled off side. Diakite and Mbia were by now in control of the game, though the game was to change when the latter was stretchered off the field after an innocuous collision with Agbonlahor left him on the ground needing seven minutes of attention.
The Villa Manager has incredible faith in his young players though questions will be asked about the change in formation, with Paul Lambert opting for three centre backs and two wing backs, with fit again Herd slotting into the middle. With much emphasis on defence and containment, the competitive edge and hunger seemed to drain out of Villa's play leaving them to soak up a host of corners and free kicks, forced on them by a QPR intent on winning this game.
As is now expected, the Villa midfield worked hard and carried the ball well in the counter and as a result, they shared possession with QPR. However, the now familiar themes of zero penetration and lack of imagination, seemed to underline their play, leaving them chasing large parts of this game. Undoubtedly, in Christian Benteke Villa now have a match winner and a threat. He leads the front line as though he was born for it and with better service he may well have added to his tally today though with the home crowd heralding saviour Redknapp and the atmosphere ready to blow, it was always going to be a tough day even for him.
Darren Bent found himself looking on from the Bench this time, though with no service to the front line, he was always unlikely to figure, his manager opting instead to freshen up the midfield with the second-half introductions of Delph and El Ahmadi. Paul Lambert also gave a baptism of fire to academy player Derrick Williams, who slotted in at left back. The young Villan took his chance well, impressing in the last 15 minutes with a competent display.
The second half was to present QPR with two more killer chances. The first fell to Park, who burst into the left of the penalty box having collected a sweeping pass from centre, though his rasping shot was parried away by Guzan. Then, with time running out Clint Hill found the space in the box to meet the ball with his head, only to watch it crash off the cross bar.
Villa will take positives from this game. They have now conceded 1 goal in three Premier League appearances and are showing the belief, mental strength and high energy needed to compete at the highest level. Their manager will also be keen to point out that with injuries in defence, that the players selected have performed well, even if they lived a somewhat charmed life today. Central to this has been Clark, who, in the absence of injured Vlaar, continues to marshal the back line well.
Undoubtedly, the hunt for attacking consistency goes on. Certainly, Villa will be on for a battle next week as they host no nonsense Stoke at Villa Park. With the Potters on a good run of form. Villa will need to step up their game if they are to increase their points tally.
Room for Improvement: Lichaj