Aston Villa Stats:
Top tacklers – Richard Dunne (7/9) 77.8%, Nigel Reo-Coker (10/15) 66.6%
Worst tacklers – Gabby Agbonlahor (2/8) 25%, Jean Makoun (4/15) 26.7%,
Best passer – Nigel Reo-Coker (24/32) 75%
Worst passer – Ashley Young (26/46) 56.5%, Stewart Downing (29/50) 58%
Highest clearance success rate – Kyle Walker (7/8) 87.5%
Poorest clearance rate – Richard Dunne (3/8) 37.5%
2 Shots on target all game, 1 of which was a goal. Stewart Downing had the most shots – 3
Villa were unable to climb the table, instead dropping a place at the expense of Birmingham which makes their industrious, if unimpressive 1-1 draw at Blackpool less pleasing. Houllier and Holloway played the best mates act after a pretty heated row over the Frenchman’s interest in Blackpool talisman Charlie Adam, who controlled the game yesterday. Agbonlahor scored his second league goal of the season within weeks of his first early on but Villa couldn’t hold onto their lead for more than 5 minutes before Grandin headed home the hosts leveller. A red card for Jean Makoun in only his fourth game showed that the former Lyon man needs to work on his tackling somewhat but Blackpool failed to capitalise on Villa’s reduced squad and the game fizzled out into something of a non-spectacle, especially for a game involving Blackpool.
Michael Bradley had to make do with a place on the bench with a late cameo role in this one with Fabian Delph also returning to the squad. The likes of Stiliyan Petrov and Barry Bannan, once again, did not make the squad with Nigel Reo-Coker preferred in midfield alongside Jean Makoun. In the Bulgarian’s absence Ashley Young was named as captain after netting his first England goal in midweek. In the only other change Carlos Cuellar came back in, in order to rest James Collins who skippered Wales against team-mates Richard Dunne and Ciaran Clark on Tuesday.
The game promised goals with two of the league’s leakiest defences in action and didn’t disappoint early on. In fact the first real chance of the game resulted in Villa taking the lead after a cutting counter attack. A fine tackle from Makoun just outside Villa’s box made it’s way to centre midfield partner Reo-Coker who’s ball forward picked out Bent. The striker’s inch perfect flick with the outside of his boot picked out Agbonlahor who paced through unopposed before rounding the onrushing Richard Kingson and just about squeezing his tame effort into the far corner despite attempts to prevent this by two home defenders.
It didn’t take Villa long to throw away their lead however, 3 minutes to be precise when Blackpool equalised on 14. Charlie Adam’s corner wasn’t great but found Elliot Grandin all alone at the front post to head home. Awful marking proving the zone defence is just too risky, allowing the Frenchman to net his first goal for Ian Holloway’s side.
The home side had a great chance to take the lead had a great chance to take the lead when Villa flop Marlon Harewood produced a great curling ball into the box which Luke Varney headed wide from close in.
Villa then picked up the tempo and nearly took advantage of Varney’s earlier miss when Makoun stole in after a weak pass from Craig Cathcart to pick up Young who slid in Downing on the right. The winger went for placement over power when one-on-one with Kingson and his effort was too close to the keeper who saved well with his legs.
As a result the ball came out to Walker who crossed well but Bent was only able to flick his header wide of the mark.
Poor defending again on the left, which was Blackpool’s main threat, allowed Harewood to slip through to Campbell all alone in the box. His drive across goal was inches away from getting a touch from Varney but finished some way off target.
A hamstring injury to Carlos Cuellar will keep the Spaniard out for up to three weeks and will be deeply disappointing to the defender, given his first chance at centre back for some time was cut short with James Collins coming on.
Villa’s leading scorer then looked to atone for his missed chance when Walker surged forward and cut back to the England man. Downing jinked right then left before curling his left-footed strike to the far top corner. His effort had slightly too little swerve and agonizingly clipped the outside of the post and away.
That was the last meaningful action of an even and entertaining first half which wasn’t really reproduced in the second. The first chance of the half fell to the home side after Adam, who pulled the strings in midfield, picked out Varney on the left, whose drilled cross could not be converted by Campbell, whose inadvertent effort went wide at the near post.
Jason Puncheon was introduced at half time and he nearly scored his second goal in as many games for the hosts when he caught a volley well from a half clearance from Clark. However, his drive curled away from the right hand post and harmlessly wide.
Heskey was brought on in order to rest Darren Bent to very little effect and the big man will have to do much more to get back into the team.
The game then hit somewhat of a wall when Makoun received a straight red card for a rash two-footed lunge on DJ Campbell. The Cameroonian’s dismissal will not be opposed by Houllier who admitted to agreeing with the decision in his post-match interview and the midfielder will miss the next three games. This could pave the way for Michael Bradley to stake a claim for a starting berth and the American was introduced for Agbonlahor to shore up the defensive unit with 17 minutes remaining.
Despite going down to 10 men, Villa were relatively untroubled in the final 20 minutes of the game and defended well. In fact the last talking point fell on behalf of the visitors after Kyle Walker’s long free-kick picked out the run of Young who burst into the box before going down under a challenge from Baptiste. The Villa captain went down too easily in my opinion, despite contact and Howard Webb waved away the forwards protests for a penalty.
Villa Player Ratings
Brad Friedel – 6 – little to do, no chance with goal down to poor defending
Kyle Walker – 7 – better defensively whilst still offering forward threat
Richard Dunne – 7 – solid tackling and display in general
Carlos Cuellar – 6 – abrupt end to comeback due to hamstring problem
Ciaran Clark – 6 – struggled at times with Harewood but otherwise alert
Stewart Downing – 6 – started brightly, should have scored but faded and poor deliveries
Nigel Reo-Coker – 8 – passing improving markedly and still strong in the tackle, should retain place
Jean Makoun – 6 – great tackle set up goal but poor tackle saw him sent off, in and out
Gabby Agbonlahor – 7 – took goal well but doesn’t get involved enough and poor passing
Ashley Young – 6 – ineffective in the hole, did little and should have stayed on feet at the death
Darren Bent – 6 – struggled in isolation, superb assist but little else
James Collins – 7 – strong and assured when introduced
Emile Heskey – 6 – extremely quiet upon introduction, needs to offer more
Michael Bradley – not enough time but looked industrious enough
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