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Match Report: Opening Day Joy as Gabby Sinks Citeh


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Aston Villa 4 Manchester City 2

FA Premier League

Sunday 17th August 2008

Gabby does what every Villa fan dreams of and scores a hat trick infront of the Holte. 'roonst83' gives us a match report...

Leading up to this afternoons game, both Villa and Man City had to play their UEFA Cup first leg games, hence the Sunday afternoon kickoff. Having watched us comfortably overcome FH Hafnarfjordu attentions turned to Citeh who (albeit against tougher opposition) struggled and lost 0-1. I was under the impression that City's result may not have been ideal preparation as if any manager can influence a team to bounce back in their next fixture then its Mark Hughes. A tough test it was, however today MON had put out a lively Villa team who were eager to get off to a flyer!

In the car heading up to the game talk was of transfers, who to bring in etc - Milner, Lennon, SWP, strikers etc and of course the (now customary) Barry saga. However in not ashamed to say that I made the point, as I have made on VillaTalk a few times now, that Gabby is not a natural finisher and "could never finish like Torres did yesterday" - well, how wrong I was.

From the start of the game Gabby was noticeably lively and seemed to be linking up well with his partner Carew. He also seems to have bulked up a bit in muscle and this was certainly apparent when he was chasing the ball with the very quick Micah Richards in pursuit, after both players collided on impact Gabby had sent the City defender tumbling on the floor. The new boys were out for their Premiership debut's in claret and blue - Friedel receiving a very warm reception from the Holte, and not used so much in the opening minutes. Shorey and Luke Young seemed to settle in comfortably with Laursen and Davies - not bad considering they have barely had any time to train together. After looking very lively Villa tried to take the initiative by spraying the ball around nicely in the middle of the park, Ashley young had quite a bit of the ball early on and it was apparent that City have done their homework on the England winger, with two city players teaming up to stop Young either crossing, shooting, running, dribbling etc. The first decent chance of the day came on 26mins to our 'does he or does he not' want-away ex-captain - Reo-Coker did some great work down the right flank and managed to get past his marker to get to the byline and put in a great cross which after being tipped into his path by Joe Hart the ball fell to Barry who fired wide. Cue sarcastic jeers from City's travelling fans after all of us in the North Stand Lower sat to the right of the goal thought it was in. It was tit for tat as City played some nice inter-linking play with Petrov and Elano which led to Petrov forcing a comfortable save from Friedel.

Then another great chance for Villa to take the lead went begging as Agbonlahor was beaten to an excellent Barry cross by an equally excellent clearance by Micah Richards. Both teams went close just before the break – Etuhu forcing Friedel to tip the ball over the bar from a cross, and Reo-Coker going very close at the other end after just failing to connect with Ashley Young’s left wing cross. Petrov in particular looked lively in the first half, and was very eager to get involved and break up city’s play – Barry although was decent with the ball still seemed a few yards off full fitness and Johnson often had him chasing his back. Still it was very unlikely a few weeks ago that Barry would play for villa again, so I for one was thankful to see him again, hopefully an England appearance can help improve his fitness against Czech Republic in midweek.

The second half had barely started when Carew grabbed Villa’s opening campaign goal in front of the Holte End two minutes after the re-start. Ashley Young had done some good work down the left and crossed to find the huge Norwegian at the far post. We were off and the whole of Villa Park erupted and was gasping for more. However it seemed that straight after the goal we couldn’t get the ball and we were immediately put under pressure by City, who managed to keep the ball very well and were awarded on 63 minutes when a completely avoidable mix up at the back by our defence led to Shorey mistiming a clearance and Luke Young tripping Johnson. Elano sent the City faithful into euphoric celebrations by tucking the penalty away calmly. And so I reminded my friend sitting next to me that we have never kept a clean sheet when Curtis Davies has played – not that that was Curtis’ fault – its just one of those stats which surprise people – for what its worth he was really quite solid with Laursen all game. Then I said to my friend “this is anyone’s game” and that was clear with city again coming close and forcing a great block by martin Laursen from Fernandes. You felt that villa were rocked by the equiliser and started putting pressure on again, agbonlahor was seemingly through but was well tackled by Ben Haim. Then villa certainly picked up where they had left off last season as the premiership’s most deadliest team from set pieces – a corner from the left was headed back towards goal by Davies into the path of agbonlahor who finished from close range (was hard to see exact details as I was sat in the north lower and got caught up in the excitement of celebrating in front of the city fans). Gabby was now on a hat-trick and looked like a striker capable of becoming a regular England international (something id laughed at the suggestion only an hour and half earlier in the car) – his touch was quality and his movement was sharp, and most of all he was hungry for the ball – 7minutes after his first goal agbonlahor was sent through on goal and despite being heavily pursued by two of city’s defenders, Gabby kept his composure and rounded off his hat-trick with a finish Torres would have been proud of. 4-1 and we were laughing. Cue some ironic songs by the vibrant support from the villa fans in the north stand lower with such songs as “we want hughsie out..” and “can we play you every week” – the three points were surely ours. Now im never relaxed at a game until the final whistle blows and I, more than most around me, was still nervous when city attacked – after watching spurs away last year – who can blame me, if gabby could get a hat-trick in 7mins then we are liable to concede 3 goals in 10. Not likely but whilst it’s possible I couldn’t relax. City then had a lot of the ball, and Friedel was probably used more in the last 10minutes than at any other point throughout the game. We had let our foot off the gas, one or two passes went missing and city were still pressing forward and playing the ball around nicely. After Laursen had got himself out of position by trying to stop city attacking, this left a hole in our defence as the ball was crossed across goal by Johnson and a deflection or two later, Corluka slid the ball home.

The final whistle went and it was a job well done. Gabby’s hat-trick was a great boost for him, and the team. We were off to a flyer, and sure, city were missing some good players, but I for one was glad to beat the team that have been dubbed our ‘bogey team’ – and im personally chuffed because im still reeling from when Mark Bright cheered for city when Richards had equilised right at the death for man city in an F.A Cup game a few years ago. But more importantly we had got 3 points from a tough first game.

Here’s hoping for a productive week in the transfer market before our clash with stoke at an unfamiliar kick off time at 3pm on a Saturday. Don’t get much of them anymore do we? Personally I'm happy to have more Sunday kick offs if it means we progress in Europe.

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