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Academy Play Off Semi-final: Villa vs. Arsenal Match Report


blandy
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Another midget gem from OutByEaster

A cracking game at Villa Park this lunchtime as Villa won through to the final.

Two determined sides battled away in bright sunshine in front of a couple of hundred supporters, a bundle of parents, a clutch of former players and the bride and groom.

There’s something slightly surreal about coming to a youth game at Villa Park on a Saturday lunchtime, made even more so on arrival by being treated to the sight of a bride and groom posing for photographs in front of the away dug out, lovingly cradling a match ball as if it were their own. How did he talk her into that?

A lovely image spoilt somewhat when the Arsenal players came out to warm up and one of them let loose a burp loud enough to hear from the back of the middle Trinity.

Villa came out with a strong looking line up of Parish in goal, Lowry, Baker, Clark and Lichaj left to right across the back, Forrester, Bannan, Herd and Albrighton across the middle, and our very own well matched couple Delfouneso and Collins up front.

Arsenal had the impressive Frimpong playing as the holding man in a midfield diamond, and their bright young hopeful Jack Wilshere behind the front two.

The game opened at a rare old pace with both teams eager to assert themselves. When you have two teams that are used to winning games, as both of these are, the opening minutes can be vital and Villa in particular set about it with some gusto.

Chris Herd has been away on loan for a few months in the lower leagues and he seemed to have come back with a whole lot of spite. There were lots of challenges coming in and he had already made the acquaintance of much of the Arsenal midfield by the time the ref stopped play on six minutes to have a word.

Parish was called into early action when a free kick played deep to the far post became a shot in the swirling wind. He did well in the end to tip it round the post.

Bannan was next to be warned by the referee as Villa battled to get in to the game. Arsenal were playing the ball around with more confidence than Villa and had a control of the early stages but weren’t threatening our goal too often, on the one occasion when they did Ciaran Clark made an excellent covering tackle.

Herd burst through the middle in the 10th minute and had a claim for a penalty turned down by the referee, probably correctly but I’ve seen them given.

A minute later, the cards finally came out with both Albrighton and Herd seeing yellow for tackles that were…well…enthusiastic is as good a word as any.

Villa battled to get back in to the game as half chances came at both ends, with our best chance seeming like it would come from one of a few free kicks into the box.

Bannan was the next to join the enthusiasm club for a late challenge, yellow for him.

The best chance of the half came in the 38th minute with Nathan Delfouneso’s run taking him through and one on one with the keeper. The man with one vowel, Szczesny, made a very good save with his foot and looked a good prospect throughout.

There was just time for Arsenals number six, Luke Ayling to make his way into the referee’s notebook before halftime and we went in at nil-nil in a very balanced game.

From the restart we looked bright and following good work down the right hand side, Albrighton played a ball into Delfouneso on the edge of the six-yard box, he neatly controlled it, then volleyed it under the keeper for 1-0. Villa ahead and he took it well.

Arsenal went back onto the front foot with the lively Wilshere going past a couple of players on a mazy run, then putting his shot beyond Parish’s drive and thumping a post in front of the Holte End.

The game had opened up as Arsenal came forward and we almost added another soon after with Forrester heading wide when he might have done better with an excellent ball from Bannan.

Arsenal brought on Nacer Barazite, an Ibrahimovich look-a-like, who if he becomes half the player he thinks he is now could be an excellent prospect. His first act was a shameless dive and holding of his face.

Arsenal tried to impose themselves, but while they were playing the ball around nicely they didn’t seem able to get anything together in the final third.

Villa weren’t Arsenaling about though and we showed our threat on the break with Collins having a couple of runs at the heart of their defence but without any end product.

Our best move of the match followed with a Bannan back heel setting Forrester away, he flicked it on to Delfouneso who beat a man and centred for Collins. Sadly his shot was straight at the keeper.

On 71 minutes, Lowry was booked following a tackle with Wilshere. Wilshere fell on the ball and grabbed it with both hands, there didn’t appear to be a foul and it looked a clear handball, so Lowry had every right to swing a foot at it. Whether he had any right to swing that foot at the prone Wilshere two or three more times is less clear, and the card was no surprise.

Wilshere managed to get one himself as he reacted by trying to get Forrester in a fight with a couple of pushes, he was one of three Arsenal players booked in the second half.

Forrester was replaced shortly afterward, Andreas Weimann coming on for the last few minutes and Villa worked hard to see the game out.

In fairness, while Arsenal huffed and puffed, they never really looked likely to score; Baker and particularly Clark looked very solid at the back.

The final whistle was greeted with cheers form the Villa players who stand on the verge of a real achievement, many of these players have already won two trophies this year and a third seems altogether possible.

Congratulations to all, I won’t go into player ratings, but Clark and Herd were probably our standouts. Delfouneso deadly in short bursts, and as a unit we looked very solid.

No news yet on where or when the final will be, but if it is at Villa Park I can’t encourage you enough to come along; there’s a special group of players developing here and they are definitely worth a look.

OBE

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Was there today also and can only echo OBE's fine words. Villa thoroughly deserved the win,could have been 2 or 3 in the end. Defence were solid as a rock. Sunderland play Man City on monday so we will play the winners of that. The future is indeed bright.

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Final is being listed as the 3rd May, with most places suggesting we'll be the home team.

I presume the date will be moved as it'll get in the way of our game against Wigan otherwise.

Fingers crossed for Villa Park, it could be a cracking night.

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I thought Lichaj was decent at RB.

And I thought it was quite amusing, the amount of times Arse players were on the deck chewing the cud, when not one Villa player did it

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