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Player Match Ratings: Benteke’s hat-trick gives us a lifeline!


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Our makeshift defence was breeched three times last night by a QPR team that had looked destined for the drop until scoring four at WBA and taking a fourth point over the Easter period yesterday. We fell behind to them twice and defeat in this six-pointer would have seen us replace them in the third of the three relegation places. That would have been very hard to come back from with just six games remaining of the league season. 


A Villa team that was ravaged by injury always faced a tough test against a Rangers side that came to Villa Park with renewed belief that they might yet avoid the relegation trap door. But Villa took an early grip on the game and despite going a goal down on 7 minutes had the resilience to come back to go into the break a goal to the good. Two second half goals from our visitors left supporters fearful of a defeat that might well have gone a long way to deciding our fate for this season and it seemed the game was drifting away from us. But Benteke was not prepared to either leave the field a loser or without claiming a well deserved hat-trick.


This was without doubt a must win game but having failed to secure a win it most definitely was a must not lose game. Having achieved that minimum objective we live to fight another day although winnable games are fast running out for us. I consider that we need to remain unbeaten at Villa Park in the run-in and to win two of our remaining three home games to secure our safety. That will not be easy and I really hope we have somehow got two more wins on the board before we reach the final showdown against Burnley.       


My player ratings from a game that has left us sitting precariously just three points clear of the three relegation places are:


Brad Guzan – 6 – Brad had little to do last night but there seems to be a question mark developing concerning his confidence and conceding three again will not have helped this. He may now face increased competition from Shay for the shirt in our forthcoming league games as well as for our Wembley appearance(s).                                                                   


Leandro Bacuna – 5 – Leo produced some good crosses such as on 27 minutes when a defender just beat Benteke to an inviting ball and was a regular threat when coming forward. But he was also unsurprisingly often unsteady at the back which is to be expected given he is no full back.                            


Ciaran Clark – 7 – Another solid display at the heart of our defence.   


Ron Vlaar – 6 – A welcome return for our former captain if a very harsh one on Jores. He was no doubt selected to add experience, organisation and some degree of coolness to our back four which unfortunately still leaked goals despite his return. Hit a fierce shot from inside the box that cannoned off Sandro on 23 minutes which Green helped over the bar.                                


Kieran Richardson – 3 – Beaten too often and too easily on his return following injury. Effortlessly beaten on the edge of the box by Phillips on 78 minutes who then found Austin for their third. Here is another starter who would not claim to be a defensive full back                      


Tom Cleverley – 7 – Put in a big shift last night. The work he has put in and the improvement in his overall game since the arrival of the new boss is clearly evident. Hit a sweet ball to Benteke inside the box on 6 minutes but our striker was clearly offside.        


Carlos Sánchez - 7 – Stood up to be counted last night and gave a midfield performance that was something near the level he had been producing regularly earlier this season. Unfortunately the frequency of his misplaced passes continues to be a cause for concern.                                        


Fabian Delph – 7 – He really wanted the win last night and gave his all for the cause producing a hard working captain’s performance.               


Jack Grealish – 5 – The boss took a throw of the dice by starting Jack in such a crucial game. It was always going to be tough for him to make a big impression on the game with Barton having taken a grip on the middle from the start and with opponents putting themselves about at will. He hit a 13th minute free kick that was gathered easily enough at his near post by Green and hit an effort on 53 minutes that Green also kept out at his near post with a bit more difficulty.


Jack had a golden opportunity to give us the lead on 16 minutes having made a very nice run into the box. Benteke aimed the ball to him and it ran onto him off Barton but he then hit the ball at Green rather than attempted to lift it over the prone keeper. He will learn from this experience but he still has some work to do not least on getting his corners over.          


Gabriel Agbonlahor – 6 – His runs troubled their defence. Gabby appeared to be clipped from behind inside the box on 25 minutes after some good work between Benteke and himself had put him in a dangerous position. He was so unlucky when a good header from a Bacuna cross sailed a foot wide of the post on 40 minutes.


Christian Benteke – 9 – MOTM – Without him we would have lost this one and we are again relying on his goals saving us from the drop. He has done so before and if he stays injury free can do it again! He hit his first on 10 minutes when he cut inside the box before hitting a shot that deflected off Caulker’s leg and into the far corner of the net for a timely equalizer. Christian then gave us the lead on 33 minutes when Gabby played the ball to him before being clattered in the centre circle. The referee played a good advantage allowing Benteke to run to the edge of the box where he fooled both Hill and Green into thinking he was going to hit it right before hitting it inside the left post.


Having been as cool as a cucumber with the finish that gave us our second goal he then did the same in claiming our vital equalizer on 83 minutes. Undeterred by the referee pacing out the distance for the wall and then allowing it to stand several feet in front of that Benteke hit a free kick from the edge of the box over that wall and in off the inside of the post. He should have tried to make a more determined challenge for the cross that led to their second and might just have won it for us on 88 minutes when Cole did so well to play a one-two with Lowton whose cross was just behind Benteke who was not able to get his effort on target.          




Joe Cole – 6 – Replaced Jack on 70 minutes. Made a positive impression on the game and could yet have an important role to play in our survival battle. Tried to hook a Lowton cross into the net in stoppage time but it flew behind.


Matt Lowton – 6 - Replaced Bacuna on 75 minutes. Given our current paucity of choice at full back I would have started him for this one but it may be that he did not have 90 minutes in him having been out due to injury. It was perhaps a toss-up concerning which of the players who started at full back he would replace but I suspect most of us would have gone with Richardson last night. 


Charles N’Zogbia – Replaced Cleverley on 81 minutes. Not on long enough to merit a rating but made a positive impact during what limited time he had to do so.    


Stay up the Villa!

John Lewis

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I think that's a bit harsh on Grealish, John. I think he troubled the QPR defence more than you are suggesting. Agree his corners were rubbish.


Point taken. I really like what I have seen from Jack and I am sure he will get the chances to play that other young players have not had in the past. I am confident he has it in him to be a future star (having compared him with the young Brian Little in the past) but I think he has had better games than this one for us and will have even better ones than those in the future.   


Very harsh on Jack, and where is the part where Benteke ducked instead of attacking the ball for the QPR goal.


As above regarding Jack and I did say "He (Benteke) should have tried to make a more determined challenge for the cross that led to their second". 

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