Villa secured their place in the Barclays Asia Trophy final after defeating their most familiar of opponents, Blackburn Rovers, with a deft finish from Darren Bent enough to seal victory early in the second half.
Line-up: Given; Young, Collins, Dunne, Warnock; Bannan (off 62), Petrov (off 73), Makoun (off 62), Heskey; Agbonlahor (off 62), Bent. Subs used: Albrighton (on 62), Delph (on 62), Delfouneso (on 62), Clark (on 73).
In a game which was undoubtedly hampered by weather conditions, with not just Petrov looking as though he’d washed up on a river bank at the full-time whistle, resolute defending and gutsy displays earned Villa the narrow win. Defence was certainly more impressive than the attack for once, although Villa just about shaded proceedings in my obviously unbiased opinion. James Collins was deservedly awarded the man of the match award for some excellent challenges, getting in the wars somewhat in the process, but full-backs Young and Warnock in particular, also looked solid.
Villa’s best chance early on came from the head of Bent after an understandably slow start to the game. Blackburn had the best opportunity of the opening exchanges when, in 9 minutes, the ball broke to Formica on the edge of the Villa box, whose drive was well beaten away by Given.
A good chance fell to Bent 10 minutes later when the striker was allowed a free header in the box, 12 yards out after good delivery from Agbonlahor, though his effort sailed harmlessly over the bar.
With 24 minutes on the clock good hold up play from Bent found Bannan whose deep delivery made it’s way to Warnock at back past but the left back couldn’t bundle home under pressure. Just a minute later the one moment of real quality in the match came from Stiliyan Petrov whose sublime flick over the Rovers defenders head put him through on goal, only for the Bulgarian to fire straight at Robinson.
The game began to heat up toward the end of the half with tackles flying in, some of which were a little mistimed but could be put down to the heat which was clearly affecting the players up until half-time with the game finishing 0-0 at the break.
Shortly after the restart Villa took the lead when, on 49 minutes, good build up play saw Young pick out Heskey on the edge of the box. The striker held the ball up before finding Bannan on the right whose left footed delivery was turned home with the deftest of touches by Bent at the front post. 1-0 Villa.
Given made his second good stop of the match after Emerton cut back on to his left foot from the right side of box before attempting to shape a curler into the top right hand corner, with the Irish keeper managing to fingertip his effort round the post.
Villa’s first changes came just after the hour mark with Delph, Albrighton and Delfouneso replacing Makoun, Bannan and Agbonlahor respectively. 10 minutes later Ciaran Clark came on for Petrov in the centre of midfiled after the captain had just taken a ball to the face from Collins!
The next decent chance for Villa came after good work from Delfouneso on the left, who cut inside and saw his blocked shot find Bent. The England forward subsequently teed up Heskey in the box only for the strikers effort to be deflected over.
Minutes later a great save from Robinson denied Albrighton a late second for Villa after a gaffe from Emerton presented the winger with the ball on the right. The youngsters fierce drive was superbly tipped over before he whipped in a corner which was headed into the ground by Bent, bouncing over.
Collins earned his man of the match award in injury time when an error from Albrighton sent Rovers sub Blackman through. The defenders last ditch tackle was one of many on the day and saved his side from a potential late equaliser before the final whistle blew, ending Villa 1 – Blackburn 0.
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