Villa_Grizzly Match Report: Villa v WBA
Attendance: 36 083
Aston Villa v West Bromwich Albion
After another excellent away performance can we finally do the business at home? Can that psychological wall and the stage-fright that comes with it be put to bed? I do hope so because nobody likes losing a derby on home turf. It's unthinkable. The Baggies, minus Shane Long, will have marked this game as a potential points haul - and why not? Two league wins and eight league goals scored at home is enough to give any Villa player the B6 jitters. Still, every bad thing must come to an end, right?
We head to Villa Park straight from work, in filthy, dank weather, arriving at a near empty Holt Pub just before 6pm. It's nice not to have to rush and fight your way into the ground.
As the fans start to drift in, we spark up a conversation with some of our Villa brethren, dissecting recent performances over a couple of pints. It's nice to be part of the Villa family, to here other perspectives, stories and memories of the holy claret and blue.
Team news comes in on Twatter: Agbonlahor hasn't made it. Since he went head first over the advertising boardings at Liverpool, he has not trained owing to an injury to his foot. This is a blow as speedmeister Agbonlahor is a potent force in a derby game. Bacuna is therefore shifted into left-wing attack role, along side Benteke and Weimann. Lowton, Vlaar and Clark welcome Ryan Bertrand to defence (thank God) with El Ahmadi, Delph and Westwood in the middle. Guzan will once again be the hero between the sticks.
Some good news: Mark Clattenburg, arguably one of the leagues better referees will be the man in the middle.
When I take my seat in L8 I find that the rain, which has becoming down in buckets all day, has not marred the pitch. Credit to the grounds staff, who have ensured that the boys, once again, get to play on a carpet. They can't do anything about the temperatures though which are not far from freezing. In short: perfect winter football weather, with just enough slip and wind to make things interesting. Game on
There's a lot of optimism from the off. Flags are being waved and the Holte is in superb voice. The Tesco boys, having sold out their allocation, are keen to let us know they are here as well.
We are 4 minutes in when Chris Brunt receives the ball thirty yards out, from Morrison. He chips it up and hits one... oh my... GOAL. The boing-boing army erupt. That was an awesome strike from Chris Brunt. No chance of saving that whatsoever. I start laughing hysterically. We are so cursed at home. On 4 minutes its Aston Villa 0-1 West Brom.
Our attempt to go right back at them fails. West Brown re-take possession though we give away a foul in the middle. Chris Brunt takes a quick one, sliding across to James Morrison, who beats Lowton with a drop of the shoulder. He sends a tempting pass across the 6 yard box.... dangerous bit of ball... Delph goes for the intercept.... OWN GOAL. Button and I glare at each other as the boing-boing army erupt for the second time in as many minutes. I could cry. Lowton allowed Morrison in then and with the ball as slippery as a bar of soap any contact from 6 yards is going to be precarious. Fab just didn't get a good contact. Somebody, please stick a bag over my head. On 9 minutes its Aston Villa 0-2 West Brom.
We come flying out of the traps from the re-start, taking the game to West Brom. Ryan Bertrand is central to this. What a superb fullback, (Please make this deal permanent) though the ball, after some neat play and a Baggies counter ends up back with Guzan, who launches one for Benteke. He misses the knock on, beaten by Lugano, though his clearance is poor, the ball loops back of the Uruguayan defender for Weimann, who is two yards clear, on the edge of the box. Ben Foster comes out to close down the angle.... Weimann with the lob.... GOAL. A superb finish for another Villa striker who is once again finding the net. We are jumping up and down in Holte Lower. That's three goals and we aren't even a third of the way through the half. On 12 minutes it's Aston Villa 1-2 West Brom.
Are the Tesco Boy's going to throw another 2-0 lead? We are now driving at them with relentless energy and pace, the Holte rocking out the classics as we drive on the boys. Our play is slick, expansive and full of width. For ten minutes the Baggies are on the back foot. An equaliser is likely and we are doing our best to suck the ball into the net. Betrrand slaloms through midfield, slips it to Delph who sends a killer ball out for Benteke. He shows some good feet but the ball deflects back off Agent Ridgewell and into the path of Lowton. Lowton sends a teasing ball across the box....Bacuna.... GOALLLLLLL. Madness on the Holte. Time stopped there as the ball looped up, but it's in, leaving Ben Foster sat on his backside in shock. On 24 minutes it's Aston Villa 2-2 West Brom.
This is turning into a derby classic. I'm not sure my heart rate or my nerves can take much more. It's blood and thunder football for sure, the West Brom players messing up proper. Another 2-0 lead has evaporated.
Paul Lambert is now gesturing to the crowd, inciting the faithful to their feet and their voices. Message received gaffer. "And it's all gone quiet over there....and it's all gone quiet over there... and it's all gone quiet, all gone quiet, all gone quiet over there."
We are now on fire. Bacuna goes close again, having been expertly played in but his effort goes just wide of the far post. West Brom come back at us but hard work from El Ahmadi breaks the play up. The ball comes back to Villa Captain Vlaar, who sends a long ranged pass up for the impressive Benteke. It's pin-point accurate. The giant Belgian heads it down for Delph. He feints, beats Reid... into the box.....GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLL.
Delirium on the Holte. I may pass out. That was an absolute barnstormer from Fabian 'Fabio Delph'. The ball smashes against the cross bar before coming down into the net. Goal of the month right there and then. What a screamer - and on the angle as well. Foster had no chance. Magnificent stuff. On 37' minutes it's Aston Villa 3-2 West Brom.
Dizzying and heart thumping football from the Villa. We go close again. Lowton plays another lovely ball up for Benteke, who nuts it down for Bacuna. Bacuna twists and sends a cross-field pass back over the Baggies defence for Benteke. He takes it into the box, leaving Olsson sprawling on the deck.. just the keeper... but it's saved by Foster. A guilt edged chance goes begging. Cracking interchange from Bacuna and Benteke as well.
I head down to the concourse just before half time. By the time I've emerged from the facilities it's 3-3. Can this game get any crazier? I look up at the replay. The Baggies midfielder was played in on the edge of the box by Morrison, calmly sending the ball between Guzan's legs. A six goal thrilling half comes to an end. On 43' minutes it's Aston Villa 3-West Brom.
West Brom start the second half brightly. Amalifitano (who replaced the injured and somewhat controversial Anellka on 26 minutes) has a go from distance, the ball bouncing awkwardly in front of Guzan. That could have been dangerous.
The Baggies are trying to turn this into a more physical contest, preventing us from playing it on the deck. This leads to some ping-pong mid air football. The Baggies get yet another sloppy free kick. Brunt sends in a dipping cross. Lugano is unmarked..... a diving, far post header.... goal gaping....But no. It's wide. What a let off that is. The Uruguayan is not having a good evening. I hope he plays like this at the world cup.
We start to re-impose ourselves. Some nice work from Bertrand and Delph in the right-hand corner of the pitch leads to a cross, though it is unmet. The ball goes all the way out to Bacuna on the left, who sends in the cross. Benteke for the header, but Lugano is all over him. He looks like he has him in a head lock. The ball is missed but no matter because Referee Clattenburg has pointed to the spot. Some chatter between Weimann and Benteke. The Belgian takes the ball and stick it on the spot. He composes himself, takes a breath. The whistle goes... here he comes... Foster dives left....GOOOOAAAAL.
The beast is back. He rounds off a killer performance with a cool spot kick conversion. On 64 minutes it's Aston Villa 4-3 Baggies.
Paul Lambert opts for some changes. Holt replaces Lowton on 65', shifting the excellent Bacuna to right back, El Ahmadi is replaced by Sylla on 76' and Baker replaces Weimann on 80'. It's five at the back and meat and power in the middle. Despite some late pressure and a nervy last minute corner we see the game out. The relief iS electric. At Full time Aston Villa 4-3 West Brom.
A block buster performance from the Villa and a game to live long in the memory. I am speechless. We are now back up to 10th and 8 points clear of the drop zone, and, importantly, 5 behind Southampton in 9th.
Next up Everton. I'll leave it that I think. UTV
Room for improvement: Lowton