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Eyewitness Report v Toronto: Not A Bad Start


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Posted by: gmvillan

I've just returned from BMO Field in beautiful Toronto and witnessed the first official pre-season match for the boys. Here's a very abreviated match report...

At some point I will give a general overview of the experiences of the tour, but for now I'll focus on the game itself.

Starting line-up:

GK Sorensen (Taylor 20, injury)

RB Gardener

LB OHalloran (Laursen, 70)

CB Cahill (Reo Coker, 70)

CB Mellberg (Ridegwell, 45)

LM Steiber (Agbonlahor, 65)

RM Young

CM Barry (Bouma, 45)

CM Petrov (Berger, 45)

CF Moore

CF Harewood (Carew 65)

To say that we dominated the opening exchanges would be putting it mildly. After a couple of early scares in the TFC defence, the inevtiable happened at about the 12 minute mark, and Luke was put clean through by Ashley Young with a fine diagonal ball from the right flank. Luke made no mistake..... 1-0 Villa.

Two minutes later Petrov put Harewood into an identical situation, but he mis-hit the shot. Surely this wasn't an omen for Marlon's villa career? No worries, three minutes later, he was put through again, forced a decent save from the 'keeper, and Luke made no mistake from the rebound.....

Villa cruised through the remainder of the first-half without really being threatened, except when Dichio was pulled back for offside with Cahill and Olof looking at each other trying to figure out who to blame...... "did Danny Dichio just get in behind us?"

Half time, 2-0 to Villa. Could have been three or four. Barry was in-charge, his movement was sublime and he controlled the tempo. Only bad point was Tommy pulling his hamstring taking a goal-kick. It doesn't look good...

The start of the second half was a different story. We started it with Gardner and Berger in central midfield and to be honest we were completely overrun. Ridgewell looked out-of-sorts and Cahill is no right back! Toronto got two quick goals and we were in danger of conceding more, until Martin made the changes we needed. Cahill was replaced by NRC who took over from Gardner in midfield (he moved back to Right back), Ohalloran was replaced by Laursen and Bouma moved out to left back. Now, we looked solid and NRC gave a solidity and passing option to the midfield that we had missed for 20 minutes without Barry.

The game now returned to the "normal" mode of Villa picking TFC apart with Carew and Gabby looking especially useful. Gabby got in behind them a couple of times, put over a couple of decent crosses, and Big John and Luke made no mistake from inside the six yard box. It was good to see Luke looking sharp and getting a well-deserved hat-trick. For reasons best known to the match sponsor, some TFC player got man-of-the-match. Well why not? They lose 4-2 at home to a team that hasn't played a match yet and an opposing striker tears them apart and scores a hat-trick.....

More details to come - right now I'm off to the pub....

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Excellent match report and pretty much spot-on. I was also at the game and must say that it was one of the more entertaining friendlies I have seen. Neither side wanted to lose and it ended up being a hotly-contested physical battle. I would expect that more than a few of our lads will have sore knees and ankles this morning from the artificial pitch. Injuries aside, I suspect Martin O'Neill will regard it as a very useful run-out.

As gm villain suggested, we just sliced Toronto FC to shreds in the first half and it could have/should been 4 or 5. Moore was blazingly-fast and razor-sharp and clearly hungry and eager to prove a point. He's not going to sit back quietly and allow anyone to push ahead of him in the queue. Although it was clear that at 2-0 we eased-off after the break, I have to say that our midfield and particularly our defence early in the second-half was very worrying. TFC did indeed over-run us, scored twice and had two disallowed (one by Dichio was debatable in my opinion, although I haven't seen any replays). It was only when Laursen came on that our defence settled down again and when Reo-Coker came into midfield that we could move forward again. With Carew causing trouble for their defence, normal play resumed.

Steiber was impressive on the wing. A very fast player with good control and he managed to get a few crosses in even though he was being capably marked by US international fullback Marvel Wynne. Not sure that he's ready for a regular starting spot with Villa yet, but he looks good for the future. Marlon Harewood missed a sitter but ran his legs off and you get the feeling that once he's scored a couple his confidence will be back and he'll be a good asset. Nigel Reo-Coker made an immediate impression. He didn't get much of the ball, but he was constantly running and causing trouble and never stopped talking. He's a great addition to our midfield. O'Halloran and Gardner looked composed.

All in all, we looked good and there are a lot of positives to take away from our first pre-season match. Our midfield looks strong and our attack fast, but I am concerned with our defence. Our first choice defence might be fine (I'm assuming something like O'Halloran/Gardner, Mellberg, Laursen/Cahill, Bouma), but start chipping away at that and we have little depth...particularly at the back.

A few notes on Toronto...the goalkeeper was their 3rd choice and started his first ever match. He looked a little shell-shocked after the first two quick goals and the constant Villa onslaught, although settled down a bit later. The man-of-the-match award to Carl Robinson was indeed a bit puzzling although I think man-of-the-match may always go to a TFC player - there were also rumours yesterday linking him with a move to Wolves, so maybe he wore the captain's armband and won MOTM as a farewell gesture?

There was a full-house at BMO Field and a great atmosphere. The noise level wasn't quite as loud or as constant as at TFC's regular MLS league matches, but it wasn't bad. Columbus will likely be quieter on Saturday and although they are doing better than Toronto, TFC are a tough team to beat at home and I don't anticipate Villa having a problem unless we decide to take it a little easier than we did last night.

EDIT: I didn't write the match report, gm villain did, I just posted it here :) - 306

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