This Is Villa Park

This Is Villa Park

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Derby Defeat

"Abandon hope all ye who enter" read the sign above the entrance to Dante's Hell and despite an unbeaten start to the season, the minority of Aston Villa fans could be forgiven for doing just that as they arrived at the gates of the Etihad, especially when they saw how the Aston Villa manager, Alex McLeish, set out to defend against now title leaders and derby day destroyers Manchester City.

What you do not want to do against the most prolific side in the Premier League is to give them time on the ball and invite them to attack you, which is exactly what McLeish did for the majority of the game. His forward pairing of Gabby Agbonlahor and Darren Bent failed to pressurise the City defence when they were in possession; with only one clear chance coming about in the first twenty minutes, between them they only made five tackles, 80% of which failed and none of which were within a mile of the City net. His midfield sat far too deep and far too close to the defence and too many tackles had to be made in dangerous areas in front of the goal – comparing this with Fulham's approach during their 2-2 draw with City.

McLeish's policy of appeasement, coupled with some inept defending, meant City had the necessary time and space to pressurise and prey on the Villa defence and they carved it up with ease. Before this match only Newcastle had conceded fewer goals than Villa so perhaps there is no need to be too harsh on the gaffer but for those who have yet to face City and who have hope of coming away with a result, cough Manchester Unites, cough; let this be a lesson in how not to defend against Roberto Mancini's side.

Aston Villa 1-2 West Bromich Albion

I'm not going to beat around the bush, I wasn't going to write about this match, I was a little gob-smacked to say the least. With the red card, the penalties and our shocking defending of corners I wasn't sure what to write without coming across as either fickle or that I was moaning.

Like against Manchester City we started the game, the first twenty minutes with relative pressure and composure which lead to a goal and the prospect of an exciting derby. With crunching tackles and our "attacks" on Shane Long, I was sat in my seat thinking: "Right, this should be good." However, it couldn't have been anything but the opposite.

Inside the first seven minutes of the game, Villa had already created two chances. The first coming after Barry Bannan unleashed a shot which struck Darren Bent who calmly brought it under his control and released a shot which fired high and wide over the bar. For the second, full back Stephen Warnock sent a deep cross into the path of Bannan for then, to once again shoot, however coming much closer to goal, as it just skimmed the top right corner. 

On the twenty-third minute of the first half, Aston Villa took the crucial early lead. Racing towards goal without the ball, chasing Steven Reid, a mix up between Albion's defender and keeper helped Gabby with his approach towards winning the ball in the penalty area. Foster tripped Agbonlahor. A red card surely? Phil Dowd pointed to the spot, just as he'd done in the Carling Cup Final 2010, although do card was pulled out of his short pocket.

Darren Bent stepped up to the plate, coolly. Driven hard to the low right, forcing Foster the wrong way. The crowd went wild, as you do. 'We only sing when we're winning!'

The visitors were then also awarded a penalty, yet no-one seemed to have any idea as to why.*

Chris Brunt then fired well and truly wide. Karma maybe?**

In between all this Chris Herd, playing extremely well up until this point, received a red card.

The forty-first minute was upon us and the part the fans had all been waiting for had finally arrived. The return of King Carlos Cuellar. Hutton made way for the King after a clash of heads with Charles N'Zogbia. What a stupid thing to do? Silly boys? Hutts came off worse though, seven stitches in the head.

Then on the forty-five minute, Albion drew level, Brunt's corner swung in and who but Olsson scored their equaliser.

Early in the second half, with no surprise, the Baggies began to take advantage of their extra man and took the lead through Paul Scharner.

Villa attempted to come back to get the equaliser, even if Lady Luck wasn't on our side. We never unfortunately looked like scoring as all our crosses seemed to just be bound for the other side of the bloody pitch.

Our second defeat of the season and not a good day for the fans.

*It was an apparent stamp on Olsson.
**Olsson saying that Herd kicked out when he did nothing, karma I think!

(Aston Villa appealed Chris Herd's red card and where successful in their appeal and rightly so!)

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