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Player Match Ratings: Red sky at night Villans delight!


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We claimed two successive league wins at Villa Park for the first time in four seasons yesterday. We did so with a battling victory against the league leaders who had won their last four games against us. Chelsea had previously gone 14 games without defeat but they left B6 without making it 15 and with the “special one” still waiting for a first win at Villa Park!   


Firstly this was a hard fought win. It was achieved by means of a rousing and solid performance against a team that may yet finish the season as league champions. Some will no doubt point to the fact that they ended the game with 9 men and with their manager joining two of his players in being asked to leave the field by a referee who has now sent off 6 Chelsea players in the last 8 of their games he has refereed.


But the game was all but lost when Jose began his slow walk from the technical area after Ramires had rightly been sent off for a potentially leg breaking petulant stamp on El Ahmadi in the last minute of stoppage time. It will be argued that the second yellow for Willian on 68 minutes changed the course of the game and it did seem a very harsh decision. But they had not scored up until then and who can really say with any certainty they would have done or have kept a clean sheet had Willian stayed on the field?


It was not quite Chelsea at their very best yesterday. But they have not been at their very best on other occasions in this championship chasing season yet had emerged as winners or with a point as champions have a habit of doing. But this time they came up against a Villa team that was not prepared to roll over and meekly accept defeat. They came up against a team who had already beaten Arsenal and Manchester City this season and who were prepared to go toe to toe with them. Potential champions will sometimes taste defeat in such circumstances. But the team that inflicts that defeat deserves full credit for it after all we could argue with equal if not greater conviction that we were on the harsh end of referring decisions ourselves at Stamford Bridge in the second game of this season.    


At half time a picturesque red sky was there for all to see at Villa Park between the Trinity and North Stands. It correctly foretold the delight that Villa fans were to feel after a splendid performance was sustained not just for one half but throughout the game. To the victor the spoils and those three points make the league table look a lot healthier for us than it would have looked without them. We now face a mid-table clash with The Potters next weekend needing one or at most two wins for safety. Bring them on!       


My player ratings from a game that has taken us into the top half of the table and all but banished our relegation concerns are:


Brad Guzan – 6 – Parried a 50th minute Ivanovic cross wide to Hazard who beat Bacuna before hitting the ball back which El Ahmadi intercepted but that would have produced a cruel own goal had Brad not made an instinctive one handed save to prevent that. Gathered an Oscar shot easily enough at his near post 6 minutes later but was otherwise rarely tested.                                                   


Leandro Bacuna – 7 – A very sound defensive display against the dangerous Hazard.           


Ron Vlaar – 8 – His was the defensive rock on which the vital clean sheet was built. Might have claimed the opener himself on 81 minutes when despite Ivanovic having a vice like grip on his shirt he got the back of his head to a Westwood cross and the ball flew just wide of the upright.                    


Nathan Baker – 6 – Had a solid enough game alongside our captain.  


Joe Bennett – 7 – Did well against whatever talented wide player Jose threw at him last night proving an able defensive deputy for Bertrand on the night. Did very well to touch a clever chip from Ramires out for a corner on 34 minutes which had looked destined for Torres. Joe then cleared the danger inside the box for a second time on 41 minutes getting in front of the same player when he was looking to get on the end of another ball from Ramires.    


Karim El Ahmadi - 7 – Covered a lot of ground and played his industrious part in what was a hard working midfield. Karim was found by a good ball from Gabby on 14 minutes but took the option of shooting from distance rather than feeding the unmarked Bacuna to his right and the ball sailed tamely over the crossbar.                               


Fabian Delph - 8 – MOTM – Hit a good cross that was just too high for Benteke’s header to be able to trouble the keeper on 10 minutes and worked hard and to good effect throughout. Hit the decider on 82 minutes took the ball from within his own half and beat Matic before playing the ball wide to Albrighton whose early cross was a little behind him as he continued his run into the box but he somehow managed to help the ball past Cech and just inside the far post with a deft back foot touch. Might have added a second on 93 minutes when Westwood found him on the edge of the box with a sweet ball but his shot was deflected off Cech’s outstretched leg onto the woodwork.                                  


Ashley Westwood – 7 – Pinged some nice balls around and battled throughout winning balls well as in the build up to out winner.  


Gabriel Agbonlahor – 6 – His pace remains a threat to defenders.     


Andreas Weimann – 6 – Worked tirelessly. Hit a nice ball through towards Benteke on 15 minutes which the striker was a couple of feet from getting a touch to having run clear of three defenders.       


Christian Benteke – 7 – Chelsea knew he represented a big threat to them and treated him accordingly. He was well found by Gabby on the edge of the box and hit a superb volley which flew inches wide of the post on 39 minutes. Might have had an opener on 66 minutes to cap a splendid move that started with Gabby running from inside his own half before feeding Benteke who in turn played the ball to Weimann who pulled it back to him on the edge of the box but his shot got a slight deflection off a defender that took it just wide of the post. Hit a powerful shot from the edge of the box on 90 minutes which unfortunately was straight at Cech.                     




Marc Albrighton – 7 - Replaced Gabby on 75 minutes. Marc hit the ball over for the winner and made another positive impression in the brief time he had available to do so.   


Ciaran Clark – Replaced Bennett on 78 minutes. Was not on long enough to merit a rating but did add some strength to our defence towards the end of the game.          


Stay up the Villa!

John Lewis

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This was easily our best defensive display of the season so far. My fear before the game was that Mourinho would identify Bennett as our weak link & that both Oscar & Hazard would take turns in both isolating & then destroying him completely. It is to Joe's eternal credit that that situation never materialised & ultimately too if anything, apart from one occasion it was actually our Right Back Bacuna who truly had Hazard in his back pocket.


I've said this on many occasions before & reiterate it  here once more that Paul Lambert is the bravest manager we have ever had. Who else would consider lining up with a 4 3 2 1 formation with Agbonlahor & Weimann playing behind Benteke & toe to toeing it with the potential Champions? They say that fortune favours the brave & so it proved.


My only real criticism is that for large periods of the game we were extremely poor in possession & I can't recall the amount of times we seriously tamely surrendered the ball when under no pressure what so ever with poorly placed passes or long punts down field.  Also, Gabby for some strange reason seemed to want to run with the ball when there was a good pass on or pass the ball when there was space for him to take players on & run in behind.


The key to the game was trying to keep it at 0-0 & be competitive for as long as possible & to try & score the first goal. Chelsea can have little complaint about either sending off & just as the Willian sending off swung the game in our favour remember too that Benteke was dubiously sent off at Villa Park when we were winning 1-0 last season & the shennanigans of our earlier visit to Stamford Bridge this season only goes to prove that what goes round eventually comes round too.


Despite our extremely poor home record in recent seasons home wins against Man City & now Chelsea prove that together, on our day, the whole football club can actually beat anyone.


Villa Park under floodlights with the whole ground rockin' & the Holte End in full voice is pure theatre & a magical place to be. It's results & performances like this that underline the massive potential of our great old club & reasons to ultimately keep the faith.

Edited by villa-revolution
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