Villa could only manage a draw against a weakened Bolton side at Villa Park this afternoon with the game finishing 1-1. Kevin MacDonald would have been hoping to end his 6 week rein at the club on a high but hands over to Gerard Houllier with a distinctly average record. Villa are yet to face any of the top 8 from last season so would have been hoping for a better record than 2 wins, 2 defeats and a draw but it’s not an awful start.
Villa kicked off for the first time in front of their new managerial set up and for the last time under caretaker manager Kevin MacDonald. Both Gerard Houllier and new assistant Gary McAllister, announced today, were sat in the stands to watch an end to end first half.
The game started fairly open with the first chance of the opening few minutes falling to fit again Captain, Kevin Davies. With 3 minutes on the clock the striker turned on the edge of the box but his curling effort sailed wide.
Villa’s young winger had the home sides opening chance after 6 minutes when Paul Robinson failed to deal with a high ball and it fell to Albrighton who dragged wide.
The first goal came on 13 minutes when Ashley Young won a free kick 25 yards out after a foul by Fabrice Muamba. Young fired in a flat drive into the bottom left corner after James Collins had disrupted the Bolton wall. The goal saw the home player’s rush to MacDonald in celebration in front of the new man in charge after many of the team had backed the caretaker for the full time role.
Villa were now in the ascendancy dominating much of the possession with Young proving a handful. The forward nutmegged former Villan Zat Knight and the centre back crashed into him earning a yellow card.
The hosts looked comfortable for a 10 minute spell before Bolton began to exert themselves on the game. Steinsson fired a long shot wide to the right before Stephen Warnock was fortunate to get away with a trip on Chung-Yong Lee in the Villa box. Few claims from the visitors but the full back was lucky to escape punishment after a flailing leg caught the Korean international.
Head tennis then ensued in the Villa box between Davies and Elmander until Luke Young eventually blocked a drive by the former.
The visitors equalised after decent play down the right by Lee lead to a backheel to Holden. His cross was too long for the Bolton skipper but Martin Petrov pulled back at the far post for Davies to touch and shoot into the roof of the net.
Villa looked to respond straight away and Agbonlahor raced onto a through ball before shooting wide via the hand of Bogdan. From the resulting corner Bolton countered and there were claims for another penalty after Elmander went down from a challenge from Dunne though replays showed there was minimal contact.
The game was now very fast paced and end to end and Stuart Holden fired narrowly wide following another break from the Trotters.
A bright and even first half finished, with Richard Dunne being replaced at the break by Carlos Cuellar.
Villa started the second half brightly once again and came close through Stephen Ireland. The centre midfielder’s promising run nearly lead to a goal but he placed his shot inches wide.
Good work on the left and link up from Albrighton and Warnock saw the ball delivered into Luke Young in the box but the defender’s effort was blocked at the source. The resulting corner saw the ball break to Downing on the edge of the box but he fired a fierce strike straight at the Bolton keeper.
Bolton then sprang to life and Friedel was forced into the save of the game, denying Martin Petrov’s half volley from 10 yards with a superb save.
The American stopper was in action once more saving this time with his legs when fellow countrymen Stuart Holden had broke into the area.
Villa attacked once more and a cross from the right from Albrighton came to Downing once again but he volleyed harmlessly over in the 71st minute.
A minute later saw the Villa fans get their wish after familiar chants of ‘John Carew, Carew…’ The Big Norwegian was bought on for the decent Ireland, seeing Ashley Young revert to midfield. Although the striker was a handful to start, literally in some cases after having his shirt torn half off, the home side ran out of ideas and if it weren’t for resolute defending on two occasions from Luke young could have gone behind.
The game petered out and resulted in an ultimately fair resulting if not a disappointing one for Kevin MacDonald’s side.
Villa Player Ratings
Brad Friedel – 7 – superb save from Petrov in an otherwise quiet game
Luke Young – 7 – proved once more why you should play a right back at right back
James Collins – 6 – strong if unspectacular
Richard Dunne – 6 – injured and replaced at half time
Stephen Warnock – 6 – decent but lucky not to concede penalty, booked
Marc Albrighton – 6 – bright start but faded, still always looks to make things happen
Stiliyan Petrov – 6 – assured but quiet as usual
Stephen Ireland – 7 – good passes and almost scored
Stewart Downing – 6 – a few half chances but didn’t stand out
Ashley Young – 7 – excellent start and great finish, ran out of ideas
Gabby Agbonlahor – 6 – worked hard for little reward
Carlos Cuellar – 6 – little to do but did OK
John Carew – 6 – posed problems but no chances
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