Wednesday 10th November 2010
Aston Villa 3-2 Blackpool
Aston Villa did things the hard way, as ever, in a thrilling encounter with Blackpool at Villa Park which saw Houllier’s side get their first win in 6 league games, running out 3-2 winners. A massive shock came when the Blackpool line-up was announced with no less than 10 changes made from the weekends draw with Everton. The remaining player from the 2-2 tie was Keith Southern who made his first league appearance for Holloway’s side on Saturday. Houllier must have seen this as great news but undoubtedly as a banana skin which was very nearly slipped on as his side twice threw away leads to set-up a nervy finish. An 89th minute strike from James Collins wrapped up the win with three points seeing Villa back into the top half of the table.
News of Ian Holloway’s shock decision to leave out first team regulars Matt Gilks, Charlie Adam and DJ Campbell to name a few would have warmed the hearts of Villa fans on a bitter night in Birmingham. The line-up did see a return to his old stomping ground for Marlon Harewood who had a nasty habit of scoring against Villa whilst at West Ham. Villa made just one, predicted change which saw Ciaran Clark fill in for the injured Nigel Reo-Coker in his new found central midfield role alongside fellow youngster Barry Bannan. Delfouneso retained his place in the starting line-up after a decent display at Fulham and more good news for the home fans saw Gabby Agbonlahor take a place on the bench after 5 weeks out with a groin injury.
An under strength Blackpool side started the brighter with Marlon Harewood looking to trouble his former colleagues in a lively performance up front. Despite an impressive opening from the visitors there were no real chances of merit in the opening exchanges.
Villa took a while to get going although a foray forward from Luke Young deserved better after good work between Bannan, ex Blackpool loanee, and Delfouneso. The right back could only blaze over from a tight angle failing to build on his goal against Everton earlier in the season.
Young was in action again to deny Harewood before the hosts broke the deadlock 28 minutes in. In a season devoid of goals for Houllier’s men Stewart Downing has been the sole bright spark in front of goal and added to his tally to make it 4 in the league and 5 in all. A one-two with Ashley Young saw Downing pick up the ball on the edge of the area to turn and fire past Kingson with the aid of a deflection.
Villa began to exert themselves on the game and Luke Young fired over once more from outside the box before a cross-come-shot nearly found its way in from Marc Albrighton.
The home side looked to have closed out the half but former Villa man Harewood managed to add a 5th goal in 6 games against the hosts. A neat flick from the impressive Matt Phillips put the big striker through as he coolly dispatched his effort into Friedel’s far post.
It was looking like the same old Villa who had failed to hang on to leads four times already this season and the action was far from over.
Houllier clearly had words to say about not keeping hold of their lead into half time and his men started the second half much sharper than the first. Kingson almost made a howler of a long range effort from Ashley Young but managed to redeem himself before pushing the strike wide.
The resulting corner saw a Collins header cleared off the line, this all in the first minute of the restart. Harewood came close to adding a second with a header just wide.
19-year-old Phillips then looked to run at the Villa back line using his electric pace to force an opening but his fizzing drive was too close to Big Brad.
Villa then nearly took another lead as a Downing corner was met by Dunne who could only find the top of the crossbar.
The home side then appeared to score a perfectly good goal when Ashley Young drove away down the right wing and crossed for Nathan Delfouneso to head into the net. The 19-year-old striker’s effort was chalked off for a push on Keinan to the disapproval of the Villa fans in a very harsh decision.
5 minutes later the two combined again and Delfouneso had his goal after 60 minutes. Young again found the forward with a neat pass and the Fonz slotted home superbly for his second league goal for Villa in as many starts.
Villa were in the ascendancy and could have been awarded a penalty moments later when Albrighton seemed to be brought down on the edge of the box.
The home fans then had more to cheer when Gabby Agbonlahor was introduced for Delfouneso who had earned his goal on the night and should have had two.
A triple substitution from Holloway saw the arrival of Charlie Adam and DJ Campbell as he looked in search of an equaliser.
It should have been all over after 80 minutes as Downing accelerated down the flank and found Marc Albrighton at the back post but the 20-year-old couldn’t finish what would have been a 3rd of the season and 2 in 2 since returning from suspension.
With 3 minutes remaining Villa looked to have thrown it away again when ex-Blue, DJ Campbell equalised with a deflected effort that looped agonizingly over Friedel and into the net.
As I was just about to cry Villa then showed the spirit which they will need in the coming weeks to bounce back through James Collins. Another Downing corner, which had troubled Blackpool all night, was met by the lumbering centre back to head just inside the post and give Villa an unanswered 3-2 lead and more importantly all three points! 3 goals was a big improvement after just 2 in the last 5 and Houllier finds his team in 10th, just 1 point behind Bolton in 5th!
Villa Player Ratings
Brad Friedel – 6 – not much to do, not at fault for goals
Luke Young – 7 – attacked well in first half
Richard Dunne – 6 – solid but some mix ups
James Collins – 7 – made up for error in Blackpool equaliser with goal
Stephen Warnock – 6 – quiet and booked
Marc Albrighton – 7 – bright as ever, should have scored
Ciaran Clark – 6 – strong but booked in altercation
Barry Bannan – 6 – subdued after impressive Fulham showing
Stewart Downing – 8 – man of the match display capped with goal
Ashley Young – 8 – lively with two assists
Nathan Delfouneso – 8 – took goal well and should have had two
Gabby Agbonlahor – 6 – quiet but good to be back
Stephen Ireland – 6 – would expect him to come in against United
Eric Lichaj – 6 – no time
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