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New Year’s Day defeat for Juande but victory for Randy!


John
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Spurs were unable to pull us back for a second time in this game and on a second occasion this season.

Another league win leaves us sixth pending Manchester City’s trip to Newcastle as well as relatively safe from relegation on 36 points with more than 4 months of the season to go. That has to be real progress folks!

This was a very important win. With our close rivals Everton and Portsmouth winning before we kicked off any dropped points would have left them above, rather than tied on 36 points with us. We had the chances to have put this game out of sight before their equaliser. But after our game at White Hart Lane three months ago to the day is any game involving these two teams really ever safe? That is a question only Dustin Hoffman sitting in a dentist’s chair may know but when Spurs hit the target in the second half I had feared that we might be on the verge of dropping more home points and doing so after away wins represents a step backwards after a step forward. But, this Villa team now has a never say die attitude and where there is still time to get back into a game or to win it they will pull out all the stops to do so. They have also found the art of holding onto the ball in the last few minutes of the game and they did so to good affect last night in front of another large Villa Park crowd and their now regular television audience.

Long time rumoured Villa target Jermain Defoe made a rare start for Spurs last night on one of his rare outings from his Midland hotel base of the past 12 months. Goals are not rarities for him and he claimed another one last night. But, it is less often that he plays a full 90 minutes for Spurs and his games for them usually start from the bench or end on it. The quality of the finish he displayed when equalizing showed why a lot of us had wanted to see him in a Villa shirt. But, his preference is to score goals against rather than for us as is the case for another past Villa target who did start on the bench last night, in Robbie Keane who has never quite made it to Villa Park and I suspect that disappointment is likely to be one that Defoe will be destined to share with him. But, their loss has and will prove to be someone else’s gain. For me, I would struggle to see why any young ambitious player would not relish and embrace the opportunity to be part of the improving team that is Aston Villa in season 2007/08 under Martin and Randy’s leadership. I also suspect that any players who do turn down that opportunity are likely to regret it in the fullness of time.

My player ratings from a game that ended what has been a successful festive period for us, where 2 set piece goals from defenders settled the outcome and where Robinson got something reminiscent (if nothing quite so venomous as) the sort of stick keepers like Bosnich and Bob Wilson have received from The Holte End in the past are:

Scott Carson - 6 – Did well to get in the way of a goal bound shot by want-away Berbatov a couple of minutes before half time. Scott did nothing on the rare occasions that he was tested by the recently prolific Spurs attack to suggest that he should not be England’s number one in place of the previous incumbent who he lined up against us yesterday and nor did he come to think of it.

Olof Mellberg – 8 – Olof is a central defender and as such cannot realistically be expected to deliver crosses and make runs in the way a full back like John Gidman once did or as any prospective January transfer window replacement will be expected to. What he can do is work extremely hard and provide the defensive cover along with the security that Bouma also does, that enables our more creative wide players to get forward with confidence. He did that yesterday as he has done all season and he also found time to lose his marker and direct a header into the net from Young’s cross for our first goal on 41 minutes.

Curtis Davies – 7 – Did enough to suggest that he should continue against Manchester United and to suggest that Zat may find it as difficult to dislodge him as Curtis did to get a game in his place.

Martin Laursen – 8 – MOTM – Hit a golden opportunity well over the bar on 23 minutes when Petrov’s fine cross was deflected and landed at his feet some 8 yards from goal. But, more than made up for this with another of his outstanding defensive displays that all but blunted Spurs usually lethal attacking threat and with a great header from a Barry corner on 84 minutes when he rose unchallenged having lost his marker to clinch our win. Has there been a more potent aerial threat from a central defender from corners since Jack Charlton?

Wilfred Bouma – 6 – A quietly effective defensive display until he was substituted as we sought our winner.

Stiliyan Petrov – 7 – Another good display. We are at long last seeing more consistently the sort of level of performance that he showed when he first came to us from Celtic.

Nigel Reo Coker – 7 – Did very well again in his holding role. Held things together well and played his usual important role in our midfield.

Gareth Barry – 7 – Worked hard, not quite at his best but his worst is better than some players best (particularly those who are plying their trade across the city – sorry it is the season of goodwill to most men is it not?).

Ashley Young – 7 – Has and will have better games than this, but he still often took two defenders out of the game and he was always a threat. Ashley might benefit from a game out of the firing line, as might Gareth and Gabby but our squad and their importance to the team does not allow Martin such luxuries.

Luke Moore – 6 – Worked hard enough and did pretty well in the target man role that is filled so well by Big John, but sadly there remained no end product to cap his efforts. Turned well on 4 minutes when found by a cross from Gabby but hit his shot wide of the post. Luke also seemed to slip when putting a good Petrov cross wide when a second goal looked on 64 minutes later. Badly needs goals but this has been the case for some time now and Luke made it all too clear that he was unhappy with and it would seem reluctant to see the reason for his substitution.

Gabriel Agbonlahor – 7 – His pace was as it always is a problem for this and any defence. He used his pace to good affect on 44 minutes when he ran from just inside the half way line to near the goal before being muscled out of it (possibly unfairly) by Zokora. Had earlier flicked on a header from a Young cross that went wide rather than into the net as had been the case at Wigan.

Substitutes:

Craig Gardner - 6 - Replaced Luke on 74 minutes with what might have been seen as a negative substitution but one which was understandable as we were in the course of surrendering the initiative. The plan did not work or did not work quickly enough as they hit their goal shortly afterwards.

Shaun Maloney – 6 – May have been unlucky not to start. Replaced Bouma on 82 minutes and we scored shortly afterwards, I think he might rightly hope for a start on Saturday.

Up the Villa and a Happy New Year to all my readers!

John Lewis

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I think he might rightly hope for a start on Saturday.

I agree, I think its inevitable that Luke will be dropped and we will play a 4-5-1 with shaun on thr right and petrov back in the middle if carew isn't back. Not just becasue we are playing Man Ure but because of yet another lazy inept display from Luke Moore. He could argue that he didnt get the service last night but when petrov gift wrapped a goal in lovely white wrapping paper, placed it on a sliver plate 8 yards from goal, he duffed it. I hope we buy proper cover for Big John sooner rather than later.

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yet another lazy inept display from Luke Moore.

not sure we were watching the same game last night fella! :?

he missed a couple of chances, granted, but IMHO his overall display was pretty good, amd to class that as a lazt display for me anyway beggars belief.

I don't think his effort last night could rightly be classed as lazy. Criticise the lack of goals - fine, no problem.

But for me the effort was there last night.

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not sure we were watching the same game last night fella! :?

Yeah I saw your post in another thread, I'm pretty sure we weren't watching the same game. Villa won mine 2-1 how about yours? :winkold: I guess I was a touch harsh on him though :oops:

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Carson - 7 - Didn't have much to do, but what he did he did well. Saved from Berbatov and had little chance with Defoe's goal.

Mellberg - 7 - Played well defensively but didn't get forward that much. Some of his crosses went astray but was solid.

Laursen - 9 - MOTM. Scored the winner and won practically every header he went for. Also bore the brunt of Berbatov's Shearer-esque over-active elbows

Davies - 7 - Is settling in nicely and looking the part.

Bouma - 7 - Defensively sound with occasional darts down the sideline to support Young.

Petrov - 7 - Got some good crosses in and stayed busy in the middle. Played out of position and his lonbg shots are still terrible but he is coming along

Barry - 7.5 - Not his best game but kept Spurs' centremids quiet and his dribbles and layoffs kept the Spurs centrebacks (sic) busy.

Reo-Coker - 6.5 - Struggled to get really involved but broke up some attacks and put the foot in a few times but was slightly limited in what he did.

Young - 8 - Kept 3 or 4 of them busy most of the day. Zokora did well enough against him considering, but it was Young who set up most of Villa's most dangerous attacks and Boateng had to resort to foul play to stop him.

Moore - 6.5 - Put in the work and generally looked busy, but I'm afraid he missed 2 gilt-edged chances and in a game as close as this one it could have been the difference. Luckily it wasn't.

Gabby - 6 - Strangely for him, he barely got a sniff at goal and when you consider Spurs' defensive problems you've gotta be disappointed that he didn't punish them at least once.

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Gardner - 6 - Was pretty quiet when he came on. Hardly mentioned. Didn't do anything particularly good or bad in this one.

Maloney - 7 - Held the ball up well and tormented them as much as he could in the time he was given. Really coming along nicely now and I'd like to see him start against ManUre in the cup.

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For me, I would struggle to see why any young ambitious player would not relish and embrace the opportunity to be part of the improving team that is Aston Villa in season 2007/08 under Martin and Randy’s leadership. I also suspect that any players who do turn down that opportunity are likely to regret it in the fullness of time.

I agree with this comment, well said :-)

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