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3 Points Lost at Bolton Not 1: Great Football, Poor Finishing

Villa threw away a lead on two occasions, gifting unmarked goals to ex-Villan Gary Cahill to level proceedings before an inability defensively, to deal with set pieces and high balls led to a Bolton smash and grab winner from Klasnic with minutes to spare. An opener from Bent after superb work from Walker was one of about 4 chances that the striker should have converted. Marc Albrighton restored the lead in the second half, scoring his fifth league goal, none of which have come in victories for his side. The winger was superb on the day, and could have had a couple of assists to boot were it not for awful misses from Downing and Bent. Villa should have wrapped up 3 points when Ashley Young won a penalty which he duly missed at 2-1, only for Bolton to equalise minutes later. Can’t blame Houllier who picked the right team which in turn created a hat full of chances and defensive injuries were inevitably the sides downfall. Can’t really blame the inexperienced back line who have never played together either so don’t really know what to make of it!

Gerard Houllier made 8 changes for the second time in a week after flopping against Man City on Wednesday. Herd, Bannan, Petrov, Bradley, Delfouneso, Agbonlahor, Heskey and Dunne (shoulder injury) all drop out and are replaced by Walker, Baker, Albrighton, Reo-Coker, Downing, A Young, Bent and Luke Young who returned in a centre back role after three months out. Delph in turn moved into centre midfield alongside Reo-Coker with Nathan Baker going back in at left back.

Darren Bent returned to the side after missing the FA Cup clash due to being cup-tied. The striker should have done much better after Ashley Young had slipped him through and he beat the offside track. With only the keeper to beat Bent fluffed his lines majorly with a bit of a swing and miss effort which tamely rolled to Jaaskelainen

The 27-year-old made up for his earlier miss on 14 minutes when a fantastic run and cross was unmissable for the poacher at the back post. The right back beat two Bolton players before whipping a low ball into the corridor of uncertainty for defence and goalkeeper alike, allowing Bent to tap home his third goal in claret and blue.

The youthful partnership of Marc Albrighton and Walker down the right was causing real problems for full-back Paul Robinson and the former delivered a great ball to Bent whose header rattled the post. Could have easily had a 20 minute hat-trick.

Albrighton again did well after a jinking run, crossing into a dangerous area but Bent and Delph were unable to reach the teasing ball

A great start from Villa in an attacking sense was equally backed up by solid defending, not least from the returning Luke Young at centre back alongside Ciaran Clark with both playing it safe and clearing up to Bent who continued to pose problems at the back for Bolton. Jaaskelainen was called upon on more than one occasion to sweep up behind a high Wanderers back line.

Bolton began to exert more pressure and kept the ball well after Villa’s bright start with Holden pulling the strings. Talisman Kevin Davies had to go off with a problem with his boots but was allowed back on on the right and was found unmarked before delivering a great ball to the in form Sturridge who should have done more with his header which sailed harmlessly wide.

The first mix up at the back saw a seemingly ineffective low ball into the box see Friedel and Young come together but the ball squirmed to safety.

A Reo-Coker foul on Muamba just outside the box set-up a succession of free-kick chances for Bolton. The first was placed into the wall by Petrov before Clark was harshley adjudged to have deliberately lead with an elbow when accidentally catching Holden in the face. His tenth yellow means he’ll miss the next two games. Not good with Dunne and Cuellar still a couple of weeks off fitness.

The resulting free-kick was this time taken, in the exact same position, by Sturridge but the on loan forward could only hit the wall again. Disappointing for the home crowd.

A familiar Davies knockdown in the box almost found Elmander before Baker, Young and Friedel combined to get the ball behind for a corner on 45. Petrov’s ball in was devilish and found the unmarked former Villan Gary Cahill who nodded home to make it 1-1 on the brink of half-time. Not good timing, or marking at the end of an otherwise well-defended opening half.

Shortly after the restart, Ashley Young picked out Bent once again with a ball over the top and a good touch with the chest from the forward was perhaps too closely controlled, allowing Cahill to apply the pressure which forced an early left footed volley to be fired straight at Jaaskelainen.

S minutes into the second half Daniel Sturridge kept the ball well, skipping past a number of challenges before dispatching to Petrov on the left whose cross made its way over to Steinsson. The defender volleyed back in to Sturridge who rose highest but again headed some way wide.

Villa began to turn the screw and set up a flurry of chances to kill the game off in all reality. The first feel to Downing who missed a sitter at the back post after Albrighton had done superbly well to deliver after another good break on the right.

The young winger was at it again, this time whipping a great high ball to the back post once more, which was this time headed down by Downing to Bent. With the goal gaping the striker took slightly too long and allowed Wheater to block well on the line. The rebound made its way to Ashley Young whose follow up shot was well saved by the Bolton keeper.

Martin Petrov then volleyed wide after a decent Elmander cross which was his last action as he was then replaced, alongside Muamba, by Mark Davies and Chung Yong Lee.

The visitors then took a deserved when a reverse of the chance missed by Downing earlier saw the top scorer deliver from the right to Albrighton at the back post who made no mistake, volleying into the ground and in.

This forced a change from Coyle who introduced Klasnic for the cautioned Elmander, ineffective in a wider role.

It should have been all over on 70 minutes when Ashley Young won his fifth penalty of the season, and second in as many games, after skipping past Wheater who barged the Villa skipper over. Some controversy in the award however, after Kyle Walker evidently didn’t keep the ball in play to assist Young’s run, despite great perseverance. Young got up to take the spot kick again in attempt to extend his fantastic record against the Trotters but he fired too close to Jaaskelainen who saved well, low to his right.

It was inevitable that Villa’s missed chances, culminating in Young’s squandered penalty, would lead to an equaliser from the home side and it was just as inevitable by which means. Another corner of course, this time from Holden, which again found Cahill unmarked. His first header was excellently saved by Friedel but the veteran could only parry back to the defender who volleyed home, again unmarked.

Petrov came on for Delph which may have been a sign that Houllier knew the home side would be in the ascendancy, with the manager hoping to sure up the midfield.

Villa had another good chance to regain the lead after Young won another free-kick, a common theme in this game. Downing delivered well from the right and Baker rose highest but could only head over unchallenged.

Gabby Agbonlahor was then introduced for Villa’s star man on the day Marc Albrighton.

It became increasingly obvious after Villa had missed their third sitter earlier in the game, that Bolton would snatch this, and guess what? They did. Yet again the high ball did for the makeshift back four after a hopeful ball in was headed down to substitute Klasnic who volleyed home from six yards to ensure the home side completed some what of a smash and grab with 4 minutes left.

It’s hard to blame anyone for this result really, other than those who missed the chances. Houllier picked the right team in my opinion, a team which played very well for large periods and created bag fulls of chances. Th penalty miss at 1-2 is the clear turning point and it would have been hard to see Bolton get anything from the game from 1-3 down with Villa dominating. Bent scored but should have had about 4 or 5. Downing missed an easy chance and Young was pretty poor and lazy, regardless of his penalty miss.

Can’t really blame a defence made up of kids being organised from centre-back by a full-back who hadn’t played for 3 months. To be honest they defended superbly in open play. Set pieces and high balls weren’t dealt with and marking was unsurprisingly slack in a defensive 4 which have never played together so no blame on them or the manager there, just bad luck with injuries.

Gutted is the only word really after some great football at times!

Villa Player Ratings

Brad Friedel – 7 – had to make one save which he did superbly, unfortunately it fell back to Cahill!

Kyle Walker – 7 – fantastic run and assist for opener, links well with Albrighton

Luke Young – 7 – did very well for much of the game in unfavoured central role

Ciaran Clark – 6 – unlucky to get 10th booking and in turn suspension, aerially bossed by Davies but who isn’t

Nathan Baker – 6 – marking was slack at times but unsurprising from a 19-year-old, great effort

Marc Albrighton – 9 – terrorised full backs all game, deserved goal and at least one assist

Nigel Reo-Coker – 6 – industrious as ever, a few too many fouls

Fabian Delph – 6 – restrained in holding role, not his best position

Stewart Downing – 7 – lively game, good assist but should have scored

Ashley Young – 6 – lazy at times, troubled the defence but penalty miss cost three points

Darren Bent – 6 – similar to Young, troubled defence but should have had a hat-trick or more


Stiliyan Petrov – no time

Gabby Agbonlahor – no time

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