This Is Villa Park

This Is Villa Park

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Ireland; In More Ways Than One

"Our Bodymoor Heath training ground has started to resemble a small corner of Ireland during the past few weeks. If you include our reserve and youth players, we now have enough to form an Irish international XI - even if a couple of them, Ciaran Clark and Samir Carruthers, were not actually born across the Irish Sea!" | Stiliyan Petrov (Programme Notes.)

Robbie Keane and Stephen Ireland train before
the Everton clash.
(Neville Williams/Aston Villa/Getty Images)

Aston Villa 1-1 Everton
"One Stephen Ireland."

Stephen Ireland is Superman.
(Neville Williams/Aston Villa/
Getty Images)
Stats on the right courtesy of Opta.

Even though he wasn't able to get on the score sheet yet again Ireland produced a man of the match performance.

Over all he created four chances, three of which came from open play. One of these opportunities was converted into an assist as he squared for Darren Bent to score after fifty-five minutes.

Stephen Ireland made his touches count with a total of sixty-five and only failed on three occasions and was dispossessed on just two occasions.  Passing was another attribute that Ireland managed to keep at an impressive 87% accuracy rate throughout the ninety minutes with 40% of them being forward passes.

The midfielder had to work hard and he was not afraid of getting stuck in, shirking his attacking attributes and defended well. Stephen Ireland earnt himself a 100% success rate in his tackling, completing three tackles and winning them all.

When the Villa Park crowd started singing "There's only one Stephen Ireland." it must have seemed like all last season was worth it. To have his name in lights again must feel like he's on top of the world at the moment and rightly so.


There was no Henry return for Robbie Keane however Everton's super sub Victor Anichebe came off the bench to score the equaliser.

In a game where both sides cancelled each other out it was no surprise that yet again the most played top flight game ended in a draw.

Darren Bent opened the scoring for the hosts when Stephen Ireland's cross found the England's striker.

However, Anichebe's slotted pass floated past the returning Shay Given after David Moyes had reacted to Villa's goal.

With Everton dominating the early periods, Shay Given had to be on top form. Yet only the heroics of Aston Villa's number one, who was returning to the starting line-up after six weeks out with a hamstring injury, kept us in the game, as he made a stunning save to deny Louis Saha after the striker rose well to head Leighton Baines' header on target.

Given was called upon again soon after, this time to spare the blushes of his own team-mate. Saha failed to get up to reach a Baines cross and Stephen Warnock was caught unaware as the ball came off his head but Given proved that Villa boss Alex McLeish was right to slot him straight back into the starting line-up.

Villa had to find their tempo quickly to be back in the game and so they did. When Tim Howard's launched ball fell perfectly for Gabby Agbonlahor to control, he skinned three Everton players in the build up before unleashing a shot which left Howard scrambling.

Soon after, James Collins had two clear cut chances to put the hosts ahead from set plays however no final product could be made.

After the break Everton went close again when Marouane Fellaini met Baines' free-kick at the back post, but Given was on hand to save with his shoulder.

Albrighton, Ireland and goalscorer Bent.
(Neville Williams/Aston Villa/Getty Images)
The Irishman must have breathed a sigh of relief when Darren Bent scored. Marc Albrighton's cross eventually found Stephen Ireland who thread a fizzing ball into the path of Bent for the ball to end up in the back of the net. However scruffy it was, it was a lead.
Moyes hauled off Drenthe soon after to bring on Anichebe and the substitute made an almost instant impact.

A perfectly-timed pass from Donovan, whose return to Everton and the Premier League has lifted spirits in the Toffee's camp, cut open the Villa's defence and Anichebe managed to stay onside before calmly slotting past Given.

Desperate for the win, Robbie Keane was introduced to the pitch for his Aston Villa debut.

Roars filled the stadium as Stephen Warnock made way for the new signing. You would have thought the noise was for Keane but I'm sure most was just at the fact Warnock, who has looked poor, walked over to the bench.

The on-loan LA Galaxy striker could not muster up a Hollywood-style finish even with Villa throwing men into the box at every opportunity. Except for a couple of scrambles in the area, they never came close to the winner.

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