Date:Wednesday December 12 2012
Attendance: 26 142
What a night. A night to both savour and remember. A night when just like as at The Etihad back in late September, those of us who were at Carrow Road will proudly be able to reminisce and recall, 'Yes, I was there. The night we rolled over the Canaries in their own backyard, to reach the semi-finals of the 2012-13 Football League Cup, I was there'.
All Hail Paul Lambert, who on his initial return to the club he rebuilt and revived, received a more than decent welcome from the home faithful. Yes there were some cat-calls, boos and jeers, but from where we were situated in the Jarrold Stand, it sounded as if the majority sensibly recalled the good times experienced under the new Villa supremo, and responded accordingly. Well done to them.
Tremendous support from the travelling claret and blue faithful. The hard core turned up in impressive numbers on a bitter cold, misty night, the vast majority of us having decided that the eight hour round trip from Brummagem on a midweek December night was well worthwhile all the time, effort and expense, to support Lambert`s Lions in the bid to progress to the last four of the Capital One Cup (I`m sure I could hear you Simon - randy.stand - I could hear you brother! Loud and clear)
We were all in great voice, belting out 'There`s Only One Paul Lambert` at every opportunity, prior, during and after the game. Well, we were getting our vocal chords ready for all of the carol singing that we`ll no doubt be singing with gusto over the course of the next few weeks.
Before the game, while enjoying our food and drink in the Rushcutters Arms, a thirty five minute walk from the stadium, a somewhat loud and over confident canary was chirping on to his little gathering about Paul Lambert`s supposed major mistake in moving from a major outfit like Norwich City to a little backwater outfit like Aston Villa Football Club, citing our lowly league position as the undisputed proof that PL was regretting his summer decision big time.
We sat quietly by for a few minutes, before I decided to enter the conversation and stir the pot a little. 'Tell you what`, I said, 'the Villa team that you face tonight will be a totally different proposition from the one that lay down and stank the place out with a totally unacceptable and depressing performance just last May. You`re going to be in for a shock tonight lads`.
See, more words of wisdom from Glensider. I was only attempting to prepare my new Norwich City friends for the upset and disappointment that lay ahead of them. How I wish I could have seen my 'new friends` faces and enjoyed their disheartened dispositions post game.
Sadly they didn`t pop back into the Rushcutters after the match. Shame, I might just have bought them all a beer or two to toast the success of the claret and blues. That`ll teach them to deride our super football club, eh chaps?
Yes, it was a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining game, more importantly of course a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining game with the right outcome. Both teams played well. Norwich City just well, while we played particularly well. A thoroughly deserved victory that made the long drive home into the early hours a reasonably pleasant experience, as opposed to being a chore had we have lost.
The four of us were in excellent voice, quite surprising really when I recall our vocal contribution within the stadium. Still we had no problem mixing Moody Blues, Trapeze, and Jethro Tull classics with umpteen renditions of 'We`ll be running round the Bull Ring with the Cup` as we clocked off the miles back to Brum. Will we ever grow up or grow old? I doubt it. Too late for that now.
Make no mistake fellow Vital Villans, this result will do our squad the world of good. We`re such a young team, yet it`s a young team that is growing in confidence by the game.
Results like this can do nothing but convince Paul Lambert`s young charges that they are good enough, good enough to compete, good enough to succeed. Certainly too good to be struggling down in the lower reaches of the premier league.
What a confidence boost it will surely give the lads, as Paul Lambert prepares them for the weekend`s tricky visit to Beatletown.
Paul sent out quite a capable looking starting eleven, a line up that consisted of Given, Lowton, Clark, Baker, Lichaj, Holman, El Ahmedi, Delph, Herd, Bent and Benteke.
On the bench, itching to join in the action were Guzan, Williams, N`Zogbia, Albrighton, Agbonlahor, Bannan, and Weimann.
Don`t think that I`ve missed anybody out. It`s 2.45 a.m. , and I`ve not long got back home, and needless to say the eyes are a little bleary following my doing all of the driving, and the mind is not functioning quite as it should be. Well, those are my excuses, and I think I`ll stick with them.
There was a bright start to the game, both sides moving into top gear right from the off, and it was quite obvious to all that we were in for quite a cup tie.
Shay looked a little hesitant and shaky in the early stages, but fortunately he got his act together and enjoyed a decent evening, making excellent saves during the game that helped ensure our victory. The final save was right at the death when we were 4-1 up, but the earlier saves came at a time when the game was finely balanced, and a goal for the home team would have given them the go ahead 2-1 lead. And the upper-hand.
Grant Holt hit the post early on, while up the other end the recalled Darren Bent latched on to a Brett Holman pass, only for the home keeper to make a smart save. Sadly Darren`s evening ended early for him, when he limped off ten minutes before the break, and headed straight off to the dressing room. He was replaced by the extremely promising Andreas Weimann, the young man who always plays with a smile on his cheeky face.
Before Bent made his early exit however, the game was tied at 1-1, with Morrison collecting the ball on the edge of the penalty area, before slotting it past Shay Given and into the bottom corner to give Norwich the lead in the 20th minute, only for our favourite Aussie, Brett Holman, who superbly half volleyed past the home keeper following a Christian Benteke knock down, to tie things up a minute or so later.
Matty Lowton put in a low effort that was gathered by Bunn, and Darren Bent attempted to bend an effort round the City keeper, who saved easily.
We were playing some decent football, looking good, and its fair to say that we went in at the break looking the team most likely to win the game.
Mind you, I would of course say that. I can be pretty biased when the mood takes me.
Aussie Brett drove forward and fired in a left footed effort that was parried by Bunn, and cleared by Bassong, then just before the interval young (well, its hard to break the habit) Shay Given was called into action, making a smart save at the near post when the impressive Howson played in Morison.
At the break it was obvious that most of the travelling Villans were more than encouraged by what we had witnessed, and the smiles on the faces of the claret and blue faithful was a joy to behold. We were confident of more second half Villa goals, confident of success.
Around the fifty minute mark (sorry, I`m not being particularly professional with these ramblings, I wasn`t planning to write more than a few short, sharp sentences, so I didn`t take my tried and trusted notebook into the stadium with me to jot down notes etc), both teams had the ball in the net, only to have the efforts ruled out for offside.
No idea who found the net for Norwich, nor do I particularly care, but it was Super Christian who tucked away our disallowed effort.
Snodgrass had experienced a quiet first half for the hosts, but he was coming more into the game, and was starting to look quite a decent footballer.
Brett Holman, clearly looking to add to his goal tally for the night, sent in a powerful long range effort that flew narrowly wide, while up the other end, that pain in the rear Grant Holt pressured Shay Given by charging down the keepers clearance, but fortunately for us, from a narrow angle he fired into the side netting.
He, Holt not Given, truly is a handful for defenders though, and while he might have limitations, he definitely makes use of the abilities he possesses, and needs constant watching by opposition defenders.
Fortunately for the most part, ours (defenders) were tonight very much on the ball.
Eric Lichaj, enjoying one of his better performances in the claret and blue, tried his luck with a swerving shot that was diverted behind by a yellow shirted defender, and that was seemingly the signal for the two teams to really up the tempo as both sides strove for the winner.
It was just like a cup-tie of old, two teams going hell for leather, giving their all, the action played out in front of a vibrant and receptive audience.
Superb atmosphere. Give the home lot their due. They can make a lot of noise to back their team too. Carrow Road was rocking.
On seventy minutes Charles N`Zogbia came on for Brett Holman, the latter receiving thunderous applause from the claret and blue following for his excellent nights effort.
Once again he had ran himself into the ground, plus of course there was also the little matter of his stunning effort that brought parity back to the game, in that dramatic and highly entertaining first half.
El Ahmedi had had a quiet game, not really involved, and many were surprised that Holman was the player to make way, rather than Karim.
In Paul Lambert we most definitely trust though, and I must say before I forget, and move on to our dramatic three goal salvo, that Charles N`Zogbia really made the most of his cameo appearance, and definitely looked the part.
Thoughts were turning to a really late night, extra time and maybe penalties, when the game really took off again.
A superb reflex save from Shay denied that man Holt again.
The save of the night, and the definite turning point in proceedings, as within a minute we were celebrating the go ahead goal.
Charles N`Zogbia picked the ball up wide left, created a yard or two of space, and found Andi Weimann, who in turn found the back of the net from ten yards out.
Celebration time. Hugs, embraces, kisses, total madness ensued amongst the Villa support in the Jarrold Stand. Let the party begin.
Five minutes later it got even better. Christian Benteke superbly set up young Andi again, and our Austrian rolled the ball home to put us 3-1 ahead.
'One Paul Lambert, there`s only one.....` echoed around the stadium, just as it had done back in May when that very one Paul Lambert sat in the dug-out of Norwich City.
Not that that had mattered to the travelling Villans that day. They wanted Paul at Brum B6, and of course, Randy duly obliged.
But, it wasn`t over. Our lads hadn't finished their demolition job.
Eric Lichaj played the ball inside to big Christian, and the new Villa Park hero turned and hammered a superb right foot effort past the home keeper Bunn.
4-1. Tremendous stuff.
We entered three minutes of stoppage time, time for Shay to make another first class save, diving to his right to palm away a header from Barnett, a header that had looked destined for the back of the net.
Excellent save from Shay to protect and ensure our three goal victory margin.
You can imagine the celebrations at the final whistle, on and off the pitch, but one act of post game class and quality that has to be highlighted, was that Paul Lambert, while obviously overjoyed with the result and performance of our lads, still took the time to shake the hands of the Norwich City players with who he had worked for three highly successful years.
Well done Paul, that was a truly class gesture. And well done the lads. That was a truly top class performance.
So, into the semi-finals we march, and more importantly perhaps, this result may well prove to be an important turning point in our 2012-13 campaign.
Right, Anfield here we come. Hopefully, Wembley here we come too.
Have a good rest of the week guys and gals. See you at Liverpool at the weekend.
Oh, and its good to be back on Vital Villa with an away-day match report. Its been a while.
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Date:Wednesday December 12 2012
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