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Rovers return home empty handed!


John
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Blackburn can feel unlucky to leave Villa Park without a point. They might have felt that their overall performance could have seen them take all three back to Lancashire. But, tough luck Incey the points are all ours!

For the first half and until we hit our second goal Blackburn undoubtedly had the better of us. They closed us down very well. They flooded forwards in waves when they had the ball and often looked dangerous. Each ball we aimed forward came straight back at us which placed pressure on both our midfield and our defence. On another day we could have gone in at half time not one but two or even three goals down. But, as Ajax can testify we have suddenly become a very dangerous team on the stroke of half time and on a second occasion in consecutive home games we struck a crucial blow as the referee began to reach for the half time whistle.

A goal had seemed unlikely to come during that first half but if it was to come it seemed likely to come from a defender, as we had been creating very little from open play. Who would have thought that Luke Young rather than Martin Laursen would be the one to get it? I hope someone did because at those odds it would be some pay-day from the bookies! Goals at that point change the way teams go into the dressing room and Rovers must have been devastated to go in at half time with nothing to show for their first half performance. Our second goal really turned this game. We were a different side after that and began to look threatening where previously we had not. Blackburn viewed going behind as an injustice but one they initially seemed resigned to rather than something they immediately decided they would rally against. In doing so, they surrendered the initiative and lost the game because what few chances we had we mostly put away.

This was the sort of performance that has been separating the big 4 from the rest of the league for a long time now. A win from a game that you have not performed well in is still a win at the end of the season when the league table positions are finalised. How many times have we for example performed well for long periods against Manchester United only to see them hit a purple patch and score a couple of goals to put them out of our reach by the end of the game? It’s a knack that is worth having with the number of games we are likely to face this season and one that sees Manchester United still looking up at us, Arsenal seeing us level on points with them and Hull changing places with us. Nice!

My player ratings from a game that left us sitting pretty in the top four and where some 5 and 6 markings swiftly became 6s and 7s are:

Brad Friedel - 7 – Made a splendid save when Pedersen hit the ball first time with a great volley moments after Barry had given us the lead. Had little or no chance with either of their goals.

Luke Young – 7 – Bundled the ball over the line with a second attempt at goal late in first half injury time. Not the best goal ever seen at Villa Park, but his first in our shirt and a vital one on the night. A solid all round display.

Carlos Cuellar – 7 – A solid performance in the centre that may have Curtis wondering how he is going to break back into the first team action in the same way Carlos was until he took over the shirt at Chelsea. With so little time between our next two games, I suspect Curtis’ opportunity will come in one of those when Martin decides one of the current first choice central defenders could use a break. Carlos is beginning to show the form he showed in Glasgow.

Martin Laursen – 7 – In the first half he seemed our most lethal player in their box and our most reliable player in our own, although Carlos ran him close on the latter. A header from a Young free-kick on 35 minutes forced a save from Robinson, where a firmer one might have produced a goal.

Nicky Shorey – 7 – Effective when getting forward and solid enough at the back. It was the dangerous ball he hit back into their box at the end of the second half that produced our scrambled equalizer.

Nigel Reo Coker – 6 – Worked hard enough but not quite at his influential and most effective best.

Stiliyan Petrov – 6 – Was doing no worse than any other midfield player at half time but unusually of late was doing no better either. A change needed to be made and as Stiliyan has played in most of our games Martin may have felt he was the one that was most due a rest.

Gareth Barry – 7 – Left unmarked in the six yard box for our second on 65 minutes and he does not miss from there. In the right place at the right time, as he so often is. By the way Gareth that right place is and always will be at Villa Park in our shirt!

Ashley Young – 7 – Found Milner for our second and hit a really great pass to find Gabby for our third. In between this he hit a shot just wide of the post on 80 minutes after a mazy run had took him just inside the box and that would have been some solo effort! Ashley’s dead ball accuracy was however below his usual exemplary level.

James Milner – 7 – MOTM – Much nearer to what we expect from him and have seen him do in the past. James did so well in setting up our crucial second goal when after he was found on the edge of the box by Young, his tenacity and no little skill got him to the line and he then pulled the ball back to Barry who scored our second.

Gabriel Agbonlahor – 7 – He used his speed well to leave Samba in his wake and slotted the ball past Robinson for our decisive third on 87 minutes. He is lethal when given the ball and the opportunity to beat a defender with his pace. His finish was top class. Found the first half a struggle up on his own against a big Blackburn defence and playing high balls to him in the absence of Big John, as we did more than once made little sense.

Substitutes:

John Carew – 7 - Replaced Stiliyan from the start of the second half and his introduction gave Blackburn defenders so much more to cope with than they had in the second half. I think his indiscretion should be put to one side now as we are a much better side with him starting than with him on the bench. Oh and on such a cold night that song from the Holte End was never going to bare fruit for John!

Steve Sidwell – Replaced Reo on 83 minutes not on long enough to earn a rating.

Marlon Harewood – Replaced Gabby on 90 minutes and another who did not get enough playing time to earn a rating.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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Another great write up, thank you John.

Interesting take on Ashley Young, because I stuggled to work out if he'd played poorly or was just defended against well. He's delivery from set pieces was pretty poor or night and if it hadn't been for that fantastic ball to Gabby I'd have been giving him a 4 or 5 personally.

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I stuggled to work out if he'd played poorly or was just defended against well

He found it difficult against their defence last year as well as I recall John, at least at Villa Park. I'm not sure if he was facing the same full back though.

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It was noticeable that every time one of our wingers got the ball, they would immediately be faced with 3 defenders. Not easy to get through that many. Reckon Ince felt that was the way to counter our threat. Didn't work though :lol:

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