Sunday 29th August 2010
Aston Villa 1 – 0 Everton
A much needed win doesn’t exactly cover it in terms of today’s result which has seen a rapid turnaround in fortunes since, well, Rapid. An assured defensive display for the most part was something that I indicated was essential in my preview and that’s exactly what was delivered. This was a battling victory which was relieving to see as the game was largely dominated by Everton in terms of ball control. Nevertheless Villa got their goal through Luke Young and held on to an invaluable 3 points.
The home side recalled the rested Steward Downing, Stephen Warnock and Richard Dunne and the understanding within the team was a vast improvement. Emile Heskey missed out despite a gutsy performance in midweek and Gabby Agbonlahor was only deemed fit enough for a place on the bench leaving John Carew supported by Ashley Young playing in a central role once more. There were also starts for Marc Albrighton, Luke Young and Nigel Reo-Coker replacing Stephen Ireland, who pulled up in the warm up, and Carlos Cuellar.
An open start to the game was edged by the visitors until a mistake by ‘Afroman’ Marouane Fellaini allowed Luke Young’s ball down the line to reach John Carew who headed into the path of Ashley Young. The right back had carried on his run and Luke Young was picked out with an inch perfect pass from his name sake to guide the ball beautifully into the top corner with his left foot.
It was at this stage that the game seriously swung in Everton’s favour and they almost leveled moments later. After neat build up down the left found Steven Pienaar who’s spectacular effort beat Friedel all ends up before rattling the crossbar. The visitor’s dominance rose to a high of 85% possession but they failed to create any clear cut chances due to resolute defending from the Villa back four. Friedel had little other than a routine save from an Arteta free kick to deal with in the first half and by the end of the period Villa were more competitive and nearly won a penalty through youngster Marc Albrighton.
The second 45 started brightly and the game opened up with Villa coming into it more on the break. Carew had a headed chance before a lone run from Ashley Young resulted in a shot from 20 yards which was dragged wide. Everton again looked decent following the arrival of Louis Saha for the ineffective Beckford but it was the home side once more who almost capitalised on the break. The quiet John Carew powered past Distin forcing a save from Tim Howard which rebounded to the feet of Young. He then saw his shot from 6 yards blocked by Jagielka and just kept out by the American stopper.
American counterpart Brad Friedel was being called upon more heavily at the other end producing a smart stop from a Saha volley and watching a Jack Rodwell flick travel agonizingly past the post. Agbonlahor then replaced an uncomfortable John Carew before Marc Albrighton should have put the game beyond doubt. Ashley Young’s effort was saved by Howard and came to the winger on the half volley. With more time than he realised the youngster showed a slight lack of composure slicing his first time effort way off target.
With 10 minutes remaining Everton threw everything at Villa and Jagielka missed a headed chance from a corner before a fairly confusing 5 minutes of added time were indicated. Saha had the last chance of the game bringing a smart stop from Friedel from range but Villa hung on and my how they had to. A massive improvement in the defensive department lead to this victory and Luke Young who was somewhat unlucky last season with MON’s selections picked up a deserved man of the match award.
Villa Player Ratings
Brad Friedel – 7 – reliable, little to do first period but a string of impressive stops in the second
Luke Young – 8 – best on show, superb finish and threw his body on the line all game
Richard Dunne – 6 – improving, glimpses of his best form after a slow start to the season and the match
James Collins – 7 – strong, fairly comfortable game but what he did, he did well
Stephen Warnock – 6 – comfortable, not too much threat to deal with but reliable as ever
Marc Albrighton – 6 – decent, some positive runs but showed naivety defensively and should have scored
Stiliyan Petrov – 6 – tireless, frustrated at times but a good captain’s shift
Nigel Reo-Coker – 6 – assured, did well in circumstances of late call up
Stewart Downing – 5 – quiet, little involvement and some sub par deliveries
Ashley Young – 7 – lively, worked his socks off and created chances including a superb assist
John Carew – 5 – laboured, struggled on his own, yet to impress this season
Gabby Agbonlahor – 5 – little time and had to do more defending than attacking
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