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Player Match Ratings: A shambolic and unacceptable cup exit!


John
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Our manager was quoted as saying that the FA Cup was both “a distraction” and “something we could do without” although his team selection if not the team’s actual performance had suggested he might have had a late change of mind. But the FA Cup is a trophy we have had to do without since 1957. It is also a competition that cannot now be used in any way as a contributing factor towards any below par performances that may follow this one in our remaining league games this season. 

 

 

We were once promised a bright future to add to our proud history. Did that bright future include an embarrassing FA Cup 3rd Round exit at Villa Park to a team that play two divisions below us to add to a League Cup Semi-Final defeat last season against Bradford who were then three divisions below us? Did it also include extending the previous biggest gap between our FA Cup wins by 20 years? If so and given our struggles near the foot of the table in recent seasons we have been seriously mis-sold a bright future and need to make a claim!

 

This game and the cup itself may have been considered a distraction by our manager and I accept that he would not be alone in this view today. But the FA Cup winners of 1957 did not see it as a distraction when they beat the Busby Babes and earned their place in our proud history. Young children who were taken to Villa Park today for possibly the first time who left saddened and shocked did not see their day out as a distraction. Fans such as myself who once shouted “7 times we’ve won it no-one else can catch us up” before three teams did will never see the FA Cup as a mere distraction. Is it really too much to expect Aston Villa to be able to stay up as well as have a cup run now?

 

We have grown accustomed to losing at Villa Park of late. But I still found losing this one to a team that are 51 places below us in the league ladder hard to take on the chin. Had our manager’s reported comments on the importance of the FA Cup spread to the team? To some extent perhaps but abject home performances are not uncommon at Villa Park this season and this alone cannot be used to explain such a wretched display.  

 

They hit us with a first half goal as so many visitors do but with 15 minutes of normal time remaining we did eventually peg them back. Surely we could then go on to win the game as had Walsall so recently at home against the same team or at the very least not lose it? But no, they were the team that went on to create the better opportunities and they took one of three they made with just 9 minutes of the game left. There was still time for a second equalizer but one never seemed likely and I have to admit that The Blades had the cutting edge and the will to win that we lacked yesterday.

 

For once we had the most possession but possession is over rated when you do so little with it and our visitors ran out worthy winners. But this was no cup shock. Their fans arrived in numbers in anticipation rather than because they considered it represented their cup final. They knew we were the most likely top flight team to take a fall on their own home ground against lower league opposition and so it sadly proved. They also did not see the game as an unwelcome distraction from their very own bottom half of the league struggle.           

      

 

My player ratings from a game that has left us with just safety to aim for in early January and having tasted home defeat against Sheffield United for the first time since 1966 are:

 

Jed Steer – 6 – Conceded two but made a save at his near post from Flynn on 47 minutes and was helped out by a defender’s clearance on 61 minutes when he had found a shot too hot to hold. This game did nothing to help him put any pressure on Guzan’s starting place and barring injury this is likely to have been his last game of the season which is a pity and will not help his progress at the club.                                                 

 

Leandro Bacuna – 4 – His defending is not currently his strong point.         

 

Ciaran Clark – 6 – The best of our defenders by some way and did what he could to hold them together. Murphy’s opener was unluckily deflected off him and past Steer.                   

 

Matt Lowton – 5 – Steady enough filling in for Baker who was injured in the warm-up.         

 

Antonio Lunar - 3 – Once again struggled at the back but this time he did so against players from two leagues below the one in which he has recently been having difficulty in coping with.                                

 

Marc Albrighton – 7 – MOTM - One of the few players to emerge with anything approaching credit from this sad performance. His crosses should have led to a minimum of one goal and possibly the least accurate one of them on 56 minutes might have crept in without the intervention of keeper Long’s hand. Took on and beat defenders on a regular basis.                        

 

Fabian Delph - 5 – His mistake led to their winner as he had the opportunity to claim the ball which Flynn then raced across the edge of the box with before hitting the winner past Steer. Showed some commitment and got his usual yellow card but this was a game he needed to take by the scruff of the neck and it was one that he did not.                               

 

Ashley Westwood – 5 – He hit a couple of balls from one side of the pitch to the other and like Fabian kept possession albeit often by playing the ball back or sideways but he lacked the killer ball that was needed to break down a solid no nonsense defence. I had anticipated Delph and Ash would have welcomed the opportunity to boss a midfield but the possession they claimed came to nothing. Ash hit a shot wide of the far post on 71 minutes after a ball had been deflected to him inside the box.  

 

Aleksandar Tonev – 3 – Another missed opportunity.  

 

Andreas Weimann – 3 – Andi has a new contract but has lost his mojo. He needs to find it quickly if he is to retain a place in the starting line up and continue what had looked up until this season such a good striking partnership with Benteke. Turned and hit a solid shot wide in stoppage time.     

 

Christian Benteke – 4 – He would have bullied the defenders he faced yesterday last season and at the start of this one. He would also have probably scored a hat trick that would have eased us through to the next round with the solid chances he had in this game. But although he got into the positions to end his goal drought he failed to score once again and was far too often beaten in the air by defenders who are some way below the standard he will be likely to meet in Brazil if selected. Got up well to meet a good Albrighton cross but his 45th minute header went tamely wide. Missed a golden opportunity when found by another cross from Albrighton on 47 minutes but his header bounced over the bar. Helenius did well to find him on the edge of the box on 70 minutes but his shot was easily gathered by the keeper. Controlled the ball on the edge of the box late in stoppage time but his ambitious effort was well wide.            

 

Substitutes:

 

Nicklas Helenius – 6 –Replaced Tonev on 60 minutes. Took his goal well on 75 minutes following a 5 minute spell in which we had belatedly applied some pressure. He hit the ball which had deflected to him from a Weimann shot past Long with the minimum of fuss. Could he yet prove to be the new Peter Crouch? I think if the forward options are not added to this month he has earned the right to be our go to guy when it comes to forward substitutions for the rest of the season. I also wonder why given the wayward passes, lack of penetration and ideas we suffered from we left Gardner sitting on the bench.      

 

                                                                         

Now stay up the Villa (it is all that we now have left to focus on)!

John Lewis

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Magnificent post again John & I endorse your sentiments entirely regarding the reverance & meaning of the FA Cup. The players of 57 must be totally disgusted at how the FA Cup has been devalued due to the inception of the Premier League. Why don't the powers that be reward the winners of this very special trophy with an automatic qualification to the group stages of the Champions League & a cash prize of say £30 M too as a further incentive? That way all teams would again start busting a gut in trying to win it oncemore & treat the competition with the respect it deserves. Also, Sam Allardyce, Arsene Wenger & Alex Ferguson have a lot to answer for the Cups current demise as they are the original ones guilty off  introducing every one to the idea of fielding weaker sides or in Utd's case just not bothering to enter at all. Shame on you. I would take your Knighthood of you for that alone.

 

As for the game - Yes. Sheffield Utd did ultimately deserve their win considering their lowly status & how well they defended with their two banks of four. However, we had the lions share of the game & with better finishing we could & should have won at a canter. As John says Benteke of last season would easily have helped himself to a hat trick. Albrighton had the Utd full back for breakfast & supplied more than enough decent crosses into the box. Sadly, on the opposite side of the pitch Tonev was totally non existent again. Even against lower league opposition he still looks totally out of his depth. I have no idea how he keeps making our 18 man match day squad?

 

Also, Sheffield Utd & especially their keeper wasted an invaluable amount of time by delaying goal kicks whilst his colleagues were guilty of falling over as if they had been in the line of  machine gun fire. This constant time wasting was a tactic that deliberately upset what very little rhythm & momentum we were able to muster.

 

Maddeningly too Jed Steer opted to take practically every goal kick by placing the ball to his goal line on the right, even when it went out of play to his left. He must have wasted at least 3 minutes during the course of the match due to this & I found it ironic how he raced up the pitch to punt a free kick into the mixer towards the end when time was almost up. Why didn't you show this same urgency when we were losing for the best part of 75 minutes?  All those sitting around me in the Upper Witton Lane Stand ( It's correct name) were totally exasperated by this & the overall lack of urgency throughout the whole team barring Albrighton & Helenius when he came on.

 

The two goals we conceded were also very very poor. On the first goal Lowton allowed their player to cut inside & get a shot away instead of showing him the line. At the same time Ciaran Clark was too slow in getting across to try & block the shot which ultimately deflected off him & then straight in. Delph was initially at fault for their second goal but like Lowton on the first goal Clarke allowed the Utd player too much time & space to cut across the box & paid the ultimate price.

 

As far as this seasons FA Cup competition is concerned: "We don't go again,"  :(

Edited by villa-revolution
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Another home draw in the 4th Round and a win against Norwich or Fulham would have left us just 2 wins from a Wembley semi-final appearance. But as rendelc has said we have grown to expect defeats. Given we could not win this one there was little chance that we could put a run of cup wins together as we were even able to do last season up to that Bradford semi-final defeat.

 

It is remarkable that Gardner was not due to be on the bench had Baker not been injured Rob182 but it may explain why Lambert did not look to him to change things given he did not even choose him as a substitute until the very last minute. Thanks for adding those lowlights myko they show us once again how bad we were yesterday.

 

Very valid points again villa-revolution but the likes of Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United would never allow a CL place to go to the FA Cup winners instead of one of them and they seem to get exactly what they want from the powers that be both at home and abroad. Those powers to be also started the demise of the FA Cup by allowing Manchester United to opt out of it and then ending the fines that once applied for fielding below strength teams to please the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United.   

 

Thanks for those comments Morpheus, for the reminder of that recent win against United Woojung (how we miss Stan on the field and off it) and for your contributions pacbuddies & Khizzy.     

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