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Player Match Ratings: Villa win the Prime Minister’s derby!


John
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I’m sure it was David Cameron that I passed as he was buying a half Villa/West Ham scarf ten minutes before kick-off on Witton Lane!   

 

But joking aside we deservedly claimed all three points yesterday from a must not lose game that had turned into a must win game following Sunderland’s shock earlier win at Everton.

 

This vital win was only our fifth league win at Villa Park this season. But three of these wins have come since our new manager took charge of what was then a fast sinking ship. Yesterday’s winner was also our 18th league goal since Tim took over for a team that had only managed 12 league goals up until then. The impact he has had is there for all to see as is the upturn in our playing style.  

 

Everton had been undone by a fine first half display at Villa Park last Saturday and West Ham found themselves in a similar situation following another impressive first half Villa display yesterday. Neither of those clubs could be accused of already being on the beach (at least when they played against us) and the six points we have taken from them has seen us reach 38 points with 2 games to go.

 

The introduction of Song at half time played a significant part in levelling the game out during the second half. But a strong and solid defensive display gave us the clean sheet that we needed to claim all of the points despite our opponents occasional second half threats to our goal and the reduction of our threats upon their own. 

 

Burnley who we entertain on the last day of the season have now been relegated. QPR cannot finish above us and Hull are 4 points behind us with games against Spurs (a) and Manchester United (h) to come. Sunderland and Newcastle trail us by 2 points with Leicester sitting a point behind us. We might be safe already. But if it turns out we are not next weekend’s game at Southampton could well make it mathematically so whether or not our opponent’s recent decline in form continues.   

 

Respect is also due to the West Ham fans that joined in to add their applause to our own at half time to mark the passing of members of the Villa family during the season.  

 

My player ratings from a game that left Villa fans everywhere feeling very much more confident about this season’s league outcome as well as wondering why none of the match officials apparently were able to see Amalfitano’s petulant knee go into the rear of Cleverley are:

 

Shay Given – 6 – Obstructed by Nolan at corners on a couple of occasions. Not often tested but looked solid enough when he was. Shay did well to tip over a Collins header from a corner on 59 minutes but did less well when he fumbled the ball out for a corner on 37 minutes due to what appeared to be a momentary lapse in concentration.                                                                     

 

Leandro Bacuna – 7 – Posed a threat when getting forward and did a nice covering job on 23 minutes when Downing had otherwise looked likely to get clear on the edge of the box. Hit a free kick just over on 6 minutes.                             

 

Jores Okore – 7 – A very solid defensive display yesterday.   

 

Ron Vlaar – 7 – Formed an impenetrable concrete wall to stifle what West Ham attacking play they were faced with.                                   

 

Kieran Richardson – 6 – Has clearly done some work on his defensive game and did well enough in this one at the back.                         

 

Tom Cleverley – 9 – MOTM – If he does leave us and I really hope he does not then he deserves a lot of credit for the major role he has played of late in helping us to stay in the top flight and reach the FA Cup Final. Tom is really enjoying his football with us now and he scored his third goal in three games when he hit our 31st minute winner. Grealish had made a splendid run into the box before he pulled the ball back to Tom who had made a good run into the 6 yard box where he applied the required finish. Tom had earlier had a 12th minute volley from a Delph cross which he did well to keep down beaten out by Adrian. He also hit a swerving shot from the edge of the box that Adrian kept out with some difficulty in the fourth minute of stoppage time. Tom kept working tirelessly throughout and will play for England again if he can maintain this top class level of performance.              

 

Ashley Westwood - 7 – Had a 40th minute shot from outside of the area gathered by Adrian and hit another from a similar position just wide of the post on 85 minutes. Has shown he is well worth a starting place in the team with this and his other performances since his return to the team.                                        

 

Fabian Delph – 7 – His 27th minute shot from outside the box was held by Adrian having had the pace taken off it by a deflection off Collins.Another good display from Fab.                 

 

Jack Grealish – 8 – Teased defenders throughout and is quickly building a big reputation in football. Jack claimed a big assist for our winner and might have claimed another when his inch perfect 50 yard pass presented Gabby with a clear goal scoring opportunity during the first minute of stoppage time   

 

Charles N’Zogbia – 6 – Made a nice run into the box on 54 minutes but his shot under challenge from former Villa target Cresswell hit the side netting. Not quite as involved as he has been in recent games.   

 

Christian Benteke – 7 – It was a bit of a surprise that he failed to add to his goal tally yesterday but he found Collins tough to beat in the air and uncompromising on the floor. Okore headed the ball onto him inside the box on 15 minutes but he was unable to quite turn the ball towards goal from close range and it drifted harmlessly past the post. He struck that same post 3 minutes later but did so having rightly been adjudged marginally offside when the ball was hit into him.      

 

Substitutes:

 

Gabby Agbonlahor – 5 – Replaced N’Zogbia on 71 minutes and looked ring rusty on his return from injury. Really should have settled our nerves on 91 minutes when he was put clear by a superb ball from Grealish. But having taken the ball and ran into the box he then fluffed his lines badly by tamely touching the ball well wide of the post under pressure from Cresswell without forcing any sort of save from Adrian.

 

Alan Hutton – 6 - Replaced Bacuna on 77 minutes no doubt with a view to helping us to hold onto our slender lead in the last few minutes and he did help achieve that objective.    

 

Carlos Sánchez – Replaced Grealish on 92 minutes but did not have enough time to merit a rating.    

 

Staying up the Villa!

John Lewis

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