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FH (not much of a) Match Report:


JohnCresswell
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Aston Villa 1 FH 1

UEFA Cup

Villa Park

Thursday 28th August 2008

European Nights are back at Villa Park. You know that saying 'absence makes the heart grow fonder'? Well perhaps that's relevant here, because after such a wait it was a little like popping down to VP to watch the reserves.

First things first, it's hard to really say much about the game. The tie was sorted out n the first ten minutes of the opening leg, and O'Neill rightfully used the game to rest key players and try out others. After being at VP for nearly twelve months Salifou got his first start in a Villa shirt, and Wayne Routledge got his first start since signing seven months ago.

Nigel Reo Coker was surprisingly started at right back, and Craig Gardner given a chance in the middle of midfield. Despite playing a 4-4-2 formation, we didn't field a left winger or even try to play a player in that position - we just left that bit of the pitch empty.

So given the advancing hours, and the lack of anything to really talk about I hope you'll excuse this report for being so short.

Villa, despite being a mix of the reserves and first team players who couldn't be rested due to having nobody to take their place were always in control of the game. They created plenty of chances, but just didn't manage to click in fron of goal - Marlon Harewood in particular being rather wasteful and demonstrating a less than great attitude.

We did take the lead though - Craig Gardner with a sweeping drive following some neat trickery from Routledge on the right. True to form though, Villa switched off defensively and I must admit, so did I. I have no recollection of the equaliser - the ball dropped in the box and I suspect it could have been cleared, but who was at fault, or what happened - who knows?

The pace of the game was slow at best. We kept the ball and passed it well. Salifou in particular was making some wonderful cross field passes which Routledge was controlling perfectly in the first half. The tiny winger was much more quiet in the second half.

As they all were really. But we're through to the next round, which is all that matters. I'm sure if we'd played our first team we could have got 4 or 5 - indeed, we had the chances to do this today - it just didn't happen.

Oh, and for what it's worth, we counted 24 FH fans.

PLAYER RATINGS

Freidel - Made some good catches, dominated his area well - basically all the things that you wouldn't think would happen with Scott Carson in goal. Will be disappointed not to have kept his first Villa clean sheet by now though. 7.

Reo Coker - Given captaincy of the team as a sweetner to convince him to play in yet another position he isn't very good at, and know it. Against Premiership teams it just doesn't work, but Nigel was professional and pretty solid tonight. 6.

Davies - Looks a step up in quality compared to some of his team mates tonight. Heads everything and can play with the ball. Has made a fantastic recovery from his injury to play so many games in a short time. 6.

Knight - Did what he needed to do. 6

Barry - Filled in at left back for injured Shorey. Had one effort where he switched the ball to his right foot and had a go from twenty yards but in all was fairly quiet. Glad he wasn't given the captaincy. 6.

Routledge - Very, very good in the first half. Showed skill, a willingness to beat his man and looked our most dangerous player. Hardly touched the ball in the second half. 7.

Osbourne - Put his foot in where needed and may have struggled due the the sheer amount of defensive lying midfielders Villa played with. Always looks a bit 'Carlton Palmer' to me. 5.

Gardner - Good goal, tried to get forward when he could. 6.

Salifou - I must admit to not being impressed with his rare appearances in a Villa shirt. Tonight he was very good - he created time for himself, made some very good passes and was unlucky to be just too late to convert a decent cross. 8.

Gabby - I cannot remember him doing one thing tonight. Neither good or bad. So 5.

Harewood - Huffed and Puffed, got a yellow for two silly needless challenges. Gave the ball away a little too much and fell on the floor at an alarming rate too. He just didn't look bothered. I'm sure he is, but he didn't look like it. Gone was the 'fire in the belly' up for it Marlon that we saw last season. Not very good. 4.

Subs

Delfunseo - Came on and made his debut. Closed a few things down and showed a couple of nice tricks but the game had already been reduced to a snails pace and that was never going to help him. 6.

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What those who were at the match may have missed due to the lack of close-ups was the look of increasing desperation on Marlon Harewood's face. Crap he may have been, but "demonstrating a less than great attitude"? Nah. That wasn't the problem.

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What those who were at the match may have missed due to the lack of close-ups was the look of increasing desperation on Marlon Harewood's face. Crap he may have been, but "demonstrating a less than great attitude"? Nah. That wasn't the problem.

Indeed. Marly was at the very least trying his hardest IMO. He's just not that good.

and yes, The Fonz made his debut in the away leg.

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