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Houllier’s Brilliant Big Brad Selection

Wednesday 27th October 2010

Aston Villa 2-1 Burnley (AET)

Villa have made it through to the Quarter Finals of the Carling Cup thanks to a 2-1, substitute inspired win over Burnley after extra-time. Villa dominated much of the first half and should have been in front but a lack of goals is still a real worry ahead of the Blues derby on Sunday. Burnley capitalised on Villa’s poor finishing and came out strongly in the second 45, putting the home side on the back foot for much of the half. It took substitutions from Houllier to change the game with Heskey and Downing both introduced to great effect. The former put the home side ahead with 5 minutes remaining but Villa failed to protect this lead with Burnley equalising on 89 through captain Clarke Carlisle. A stunning goal from Stewart Downing sealed victory for the hosts despite a Marc Albrighton red card in extra-time.

Both sides took a while to start up in this game with numerous changes to their line-ups taking a while to bed in to the action. John Carew was due to start for the home side but illness forced him to pull out just before kick-off. Houllier decided not to bring in a like-for-like striker, opting instead to deploy Young in the forward role he played in at Watford. Stephen Ireland replaced Carew and sat in the hole behind Young in this year’s familiar 4-4-1-1 formation.

There were also starts for youngsters Lichaj, Clark, Bannan and Albrighton alongside first team hopefuls Cuellar and Sidwell. Perhaps the most important selection of all was the decision to stick with Brad Friedel over Carling Cup veteran Brad Guzan. You’ll see why later!

The first real chance and shot at goal fell to Stephen Ireland put through by a clever round the corner flick from Young. The midfielder ran onto the loose ball but a lack of confidence in front of goal at the moment meant that he decided to shoot from range. His decent effort was comfortably kept out by Grant to his right on 16 minutes.

Villa began to take charge of the tie and really should have gone ahead through skipper, Nigel Reo-Coker on 24. Young broke free of the Burnley back line with a familiar bursting run from Reo-Coker in support. The striker for the night unselfishly played in the 26-year-old who fired at the keeper from just 6 yards. If Nigel had goals in his game he would be up there with the best of them! The save rebounded to Bannan who showed that he really is all left foot after doing the hard work, he should have used his right foot to finish as his shot was also blocked.

Villa continued to dominate the half, playing decent football through the middle but without making any real chances. Half-Time; 0-0.

The hosts were made to pay for their lack of cutting edge in front of goal and Burnley came out a different animal in the second half. I was impressed by youngster Jay Rodriguez who had a few chances to open the scoring but was a constant thorn in the Villa defence.

The visitor’s first chance at goal came to Martin Paterson who turned inside Habib Beye before firing just wide of the post with a left footed effort.

Brad Friedel then made the first and second of a string of vital stops to keep Villa in the game. He clawed away another strike from Paterson before showing that there is life in the old dog yet to react quickly to keep out Rodriguez’s headed follow up.

Friedel then was on the ball to flick over a teasing, looping header from Rodriguez once more. The away side’s aerial dominance was a real issue for the Villa defence in the second half as Burnley piled crosses into a busy Villa box.

At this stage Houllier knew that changes had to be made bringing on Heskey and Downing who replaced Ireland and Bannan respectively. The substitutions made an instant impact with Downing getting a great chance to open the scoring against the run of play. Young played the winger through on goal with Grant but the finish really epitomised Villa’s fire power of late as Downing lofted the ball harmlessly high and wide.

Villa broke the deadlock through Heskey after neat build up down the right from Lichaj and Albrighton played in Ashley Young. Young was again the architect, squaring for Heskey to fire home from close range after 86 minutes.

You could be forgiven for thinking that would be that but Burnley showed a real spirit and deserved their leveller after another high ball into the box was nodded home by Clarke Carlisle. The defender rose above three Villa markers to find the bottom corner of Friedel’s well kept net. 90 minutes; 1-1.

Extra-time was a scenario Villa would have been keen to do without after next weekend’s opponents and fierce rivals, Birmingham were forced to penalties the night before. Houllier would have been hoping to take this advantage but it wasn’t to be and another 30 minutes beckoned.

Sidwell had a glorious chance to restore Villa’s lead after good work from Albrighton had seen the winger get to the by-line and chip the ball back into the path of Sidwell’s head. The midfielder failed to connect properly and his effort sailed well wide of the target.

Villa’s winner came after 6 minutes of extra-time after slack defending allowed Downing to turn onto his favoured left-foot to power home into the top corner from 20 yards.

The home side made life hard for themselves once again after poor marking allowed Wade Elliott a clear run in on goal. The back tracking Marc Albrighton took one for the team in nudging the forward before he could get his shot away. An inevitable red card followed for a professional foul meaning the 20-year-old misses the Blues derby.

The resulting free-kick was taken by Wallace but Friedel made another fine save to protect the lead. The shot rebounded to Rodriguez whose shot was blocked, inadvertently, by the hand of Eric Lichaj, lucky escape for Villa.

The American stopper than produced another fantastic save, this time from Mears as he darted into the box. The rebound fell to Iwelumo whose header was cleared away by Carlos Cuellar.

Villa had one final chance to kill of the tie after Heskey played in Young but the forward, who had played creator all night, saw his shot saved at the near post.

Final Score; 2-1, we’re goin’ to Wembley!

Villa Player Ratings

Brad Friedel – 9 – immense, unbeatable (accept for the time he got beat!)

Eric Lichaj – 7 – decent, looked comfortable

Carlos Cuellar – 7 – solid in absence of Dunne and Collins

Ciaran Clark – 7 – strong challenges, needs more aerial dominance

Habib Beye – 6 – good enough

Marc Albrighton – 7 – bright again, good decision to sacrifice himself

Nigel Reo-Coker – 6 – reliable, really should have scored

Steve Sidwell – 6 – comfortable if unspectacular

Barry Bannan – 6 – attacked well but lost possession on occasion

Stephen Ireland – 6 – neat build up but lacking confidence, subbed

Ashley Young – 7 – constant threat and creator for his side


Emile Heskey – 7 – impressive once more, good hold up and goal

Stewart Downing – 7 – made impact, missed early but stunning goal

James Collins – no time

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