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Player Match Ratings: Where’s your winning run gone?


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This headline might not have quite the same bite as when we sang “Where’s your treble gone” at Wembley in 1994 to the same opponents. But their six game winning run came to an end at Villa Park yesterday and that represents a significant blow to their slender chances of winning the league this season.


Our last home win against Manchester United came in 1995 and we have now gone 19 games since they last tasted defeat in a league game at Villa Park. That is embarrassingly the longest unbeaten away run in top-flight games. But Villa reduced to 10 men for a second successive game following an outrageous referring decision bravely held on to claim a well deserved point.


There was to be no win having gone a goal down this time for Manchester United even against a team that had a number of players missing through injury or suspension and were then reduced to 10 men. Gabby’s sending off looked likely to be decisive but we were made of sterner stuff yesterday. His innocuous challenge and the over reaction of Young to it completed his transition from Holte End hero to zero yesterday.


Our opponents had more than their share of the possession yesterday but that is commonplace for us and they did not produce the goals that this possession might have been expected to lead to. We dropped far too deep during the period between the two goals and we invited pressure on ourselves with up to 4 players being on the edge of their own box waiting to receive the ball from Guzan on several occasions. But it would be churlish to focus on that rather than upon a whole hearted display by a Villa side that created chances yesterday, adapted well to a different formation and were solid in defence when under considerable pressure.        


My player ratings from a game in which the confidence and complacency of our opponents and their supporters who have grown accustomed to having the best of us at Villa Park was on this occasion misplaced are:


Brad Guzan – 8 – Claimed high balls played into the box with assurance throughout the game. Got down to save a van Persie volley at his near post on 17 minutes and got a hand to a cross come shot from Young on 33 minutes that was drifting towards the far post. Made another near post save from van Persie who was under pressure as he hit it from Okore on 50 minutes. Brad made a good low save from Mata on 52 minutes which he held onto at the second attempt. He then came off his line well to claim a ball that had been intended for Wilson on 87 minutes and held a curling shot by the same player 3 minutes later.                                                            


Matt Lowton – 5 – Given a torrid time by Young who beat him too easily and too often as was the case for the cross that produced their equalizer.                         


Jores Okore – 9 – MOTM – So solid yesterday and even made a couple of dazzling runs forward. He has looked so steady and strong since his return and this was a terrific display of defending at its best.    


Ron Vlaar – 8 – Demonstrated the same composure at the back yesterday that he did in the World Cup and showed why we simply cannot afford to let him go for peanuts during this window with our relegation fight still not yet won.   


Ciaran Clark – 8 – Another encouraging performance and his resurgence continues. Kept Young quiet when he faced him towards the end of the game after the winger had switched sides.                           


Aly Cissokho – 7 – Another sound hard working display.                 


Fabian Delph - 8 – Would not look out of place in their team or in others but he is a perfect fit for us and should think long and hard before choosing to leave a club where he is guaranteed a start and has become an England player. Fab gave an outstanding hard working midfield display yesterday. He had a shot deflected out for a corner off Jones after Benteke had hit the ball across the box to him on 48 minutes. Hit a shot from outside the box on 63 minutes that took a bounce in front of de Gea who gathered the ball after it had struck him on the chest.                                         


Carlos Sánchez – 8 – He really is getting better with every game. Carlos is adapting to the pace of our game now and is looking like some player. He hit some crisp passes, won some strong challenges, conceded no rash free kicks and his passes found their intended target. This was a tough test given he was one of the two regular midfield players we had available yesterday but it was one he passed with flying colours.       


Andreas Weimann – 6 – Played in a deeper role than usual and worked hard in attempting to close down Rooney when he had the ball at his feet. Andi was inches away from getting on the end of a lovely ball played into the box from Benteke on 16 minutes. Hit a powerful shot from the edge of the box on 70 minutes which was deflected just wide after the ball had come to him from a blocked effort from Clark following a nice Delph free-kick.      


Gabriel Agbonlahor – 6 – Caught Young when they both made a determined challenge for the ball on 65 minutes who made a meal of it and the referee could not get his red card out of his pocket quick enough. This could have been a game changer but no thanks to the officials was not. The decision has to be challenged and rescinded.     


Christian Benteke – 8 – Scored a terrific goal and offered a clear and constant threat to our opponents defence. Opened the scoring on 18 minutes when he chested down a Delph free-kick and made space for himself before curling the ball into the top corner of the net past the flat footed de Gea. Forced a fine one handed save from de Gea with a powerful header from our first corner of the game on 48 minutes. Good link up play throughout and he makes such a difference to us.           




Leandro Bacuna – 7 - Replaced Cissokho on 80 minutes and made a good impact on the game. Hit a very nice shot on 88 minutes after Delph had found him on the edge of the box which was only a foot or so over the bar. Sánchez then played a lovely ball to him towards the end of stoppage time that just eluded N’Zogbia and Benteke who had been free but unseen on the edge of the box when the cross was hit.


Charles N’Zogbia – Replaced Weimann on 80 minutes. Charles did not see quite enough of the ball to earn a rating yesterday.    


Up the Villa and a Happy Christmas to all readers!

John Lewis

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