The lion awoke and roared yesterday and chased away an over confident swan in the process who had thought it safe to stroll onto our turf for a second season and had planned to leave unscathed again with all three points.
After a couple of seasons we would rather forget we now have a real prospect of enjoying football matches at Villa Park once again. We may not win them all but I think we will be trying to do so and that for me is progress. We will not become world beaters overnight but our manager may have us back and challenging in the not too distant future and not looking over our shoulder for a change at the end of this season.
What a breath of fresh air this home win was for us. Our first league win and the Swans first league defeat of the season has left us looking onwards and upwards and the continuing signs of improvement shown so far this season are most encouraging. What a refreshing change it was to leave Villa Park happy, entertained and with something to celebrate!
Paul Lambert showed faith in the team that did so well at Newcastle yesterday who in turn responded by showing further improvement and giving us a win at Villa Park that has in recent months become an all too rare event. Two new boys got our vital goals and how different was the performance we gave yesterday to the one we gave last season when Swansea bossed the game from start to finish to run out embarrassingly easy winners?
Having gone a goal in front we did not fall into the trap of looking to hold the lead and of inviting our opponents to break us down as was the case so often last season. We instead put increasing pressure on what is a decent team and spent much of the second half on the attack finally getting the reward we deserved near the end.
Our new manager set up the team very well and we had the better of the game by working very hard throughout and by closing our opponents down. The free flowing football that we witnessed last season from the Swans was stifled and it was us that produced the most eye catching stuff although they did have their moments.
My player ratings from a game that has left us mid table and with some of our dented pride restored are:
Brad Guzan – 8 – Brad has always been a good shot stopper but from somewhere he now appears to have found the confidence and ability to command his box which had been too often conspicuous in their absence from his game in the past. His splendid one handed save from a Dyer shot that was bound for the top corner of the net just after he had kept out a Williams header kept us on level terms on 10 minutes. A very assured performance which is what is necessary to keep a keeper of the quality of Given on the bench at this stage of his career although a run of games out of the action may give Shay the rest he needs to get over that injury once and for all.
Matthew Lowton - 7 – Looked good moving forward and hit our opener on 16 minutes when he took the ball down with his chest and volleyed a screamer into the net after the ball had been cleared out to the edge of the box.
Ron Vlaar – 7 – Williams out muscled him to get on the end of a ball into the box on 10 minutes and Guzan thankfully reacted well to keep out the header. But his command grew as the game wore on and he even took the opportunity to make a couple of runs out of defence himself. I particularly enjoyed seeing him remonstrating with Dyer after he had gone down inside the box with a height advantage of around a foot. A captain’s performance yesterday from a player who may in time become as crucial to us as were Mellberg and Laursen in the past.
Ciaran Clark – 7 – Steady at the back and a real threat up front. Headed just over from a Bannan corner on 74 minutes having tried to turn in a ball at Vorm’s near post that he kept out with a leg after Lowton had headed a Bannan corner towards goal.
Eric Lichaj - 6 – Solid enough at the back and decent going forward yesterday.
Brett Holman – 8 – MOTM – Big Eck’s parting gift kept running and putting his foot in giving their midfield little time on the ball and keeping us moving forward. All he currently lacks is that final ball. But he seems to have boundless energy levels along with that Aussie will to win and that did for the Swans yesterday.
Karim El Ahmadi - 6 – Did his bit by breaking up their forward movement and closing players down and might have had a second goal in two home starts on 83 minutes when Benteke fed him on the edge of the box and his decent shot was kept out by Vorm.
Stephen Ireland – 6 – Not quite at his very best today but played his part in a good team performance during the 70 minutes he had on the field.
Barry Bannan – 7 – Hit some decent crosses and this was a marked improvement in his recent performances.
Andreas Weimann – 6 – Replaced on 71 minutes. Kept working and might have had a second himself on 30 minutes when he played a one two with Bent inside the box and hit a low shot that Vorm pushed past the post for a corner and on 54 minutes when he swivelled and hit a Bannan corner that Britton did well to head off the line .
Darren Bent - 6 – Darren will welcome our new striker who will give defenders someone else to look for and will lead to more opportunities for himself. Up until those last 10 minutes he had not really made the impression we would have hoped although he had worked hard enough but on 84 minutes he did well to steer a Bannan cross into Benteke’s path only for our new signing to fail to connect and claim what had looked an easy first goal for us and an assist for Darren.
Ashley Westwood – 6 - Replaced Ireland on 70 minutes. The run out will have done him good but he did not make as big an impression as did the player who was introduced with him.
Christian Benteke – 7 – Replaced Weimann on 71 minutes and had a dream start. Looked very dangerous when he was unleashed on a battle weary Swansea defence and hit the goal that put the game beyond Swansea on 88 minutes when Bent flicked a header on that Williams tried to head back to his keeper only to see Benteke having read it get in between defender and keeper to chip the ball over Vorm who he then passed by before applying the easiest of finishes from a few feet out. But his anticipation had earned the goal.
Charles N’Zogbia – Replaced Holman on 79 minutes and was not on long enough to earn a rating.
Up the Villa and Stay Strong Captain!