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Villa go limping not strutting into the knockout stages!


John
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This was very far from being a European night to remember it is instead one to forget. How nice it would have been to have qualified with the style we had shown against Ajax rather than in the way we did last night.

Arsenal showed it at Burnley in the League Cup as we showed it in the same competition against QPR, if you play a second string outfit you run the risk of a night like this one. There are no teams at this stage of the competition that you can field such an under strength team and expect to run out winners against. I thought our line up suggested we had underestimated the challenge we would face last night and we have now gone 4 home games without a win, which will do little to swell the gates at Villa Park.

So, another lack lustre home performance left us relying on Hamburg and our fine previous displays against Ajax and Prague to qualify for the last 32 last night. I’m sure the watching 28,000 Villa fans, the television viewers at home and the television company who paid to show the game would have hoped to see us do it with a home win and by using a team that was nearer to our usual starting line up. Squad rotation and tinkering does not seem to be working at B6!

Our best chance of progress after the group stage in this competition was to beat Zilina last night. That would have left us 3 points ahead of Hamburg and Ajax going into the last game rather than level on points as we now are. We would then have been likely to face a team who finished third in their group rather than a club who are coming in from the Champions League or possibly an away second leg against a group winner. So, when the draw for the next round is made we may well regret the points we dropped last night. A win would have allowed us to look at resting players against Hamburg in the knowledge that a top two spot was secured. We could have also considered resting players last night once we had secured a lead. But, its not all gloom and the right result against Everton at the weekend would help wipe away the memory of last night and we have already exceeded my target for the season in this competition of reaching the groups stages and anything more we have to accept would be a bonus. But, we like a bonus do we not?

Oh and there was one other thing that bothered me about last night. Can anyone tell me why on a night when so many fringe players got an outing, Shorey did not even make the bench? This would have given us a defence who were all playing in their normal positions rather than two full backs who were not. Was he injured?

My player ratings from a game that seemed lost inside the first 20 minutes are:

Brad Guzan - 6 – Would have been as disappointed as we were to have seen Leitner’s speculative cross creep in between him and the far post for their first on 16 minutes. Pushed a stinging long range effort over the bar on 50 minutes.

Nigel Reo-Coker – 6 – We could have used Reo in the middle tonight, where he would have been more comfortable and he could have done something to stop them at times running straight through us.

Zat Knight– 4 – Disappointing and looked at fault with their opener.

Carlos Cuellar – 6 – Steady enough at times his distribution looks like it may need a bit of work.

Luke Young - 6 – Once again played out of position although he was one of our more effective starters.

Craig Gardner– 6 – Hit the post late into injury time having earlier been off target with a free header inside the box and was the best of our three rare starters in the middle.

Moustapha Salifou – 5 – Failed to hold this midfield together and needs to show more as he did in Prague along with some consistency.

Isaiah Osbourne – 4 – He really needs to take one of these chances sooner rather than later to show that he can really live up to what we hear about his potential. Replaced by Milner on 65 minutes, it really needed to have been sooner.

Ashley Young – 6 – One of the few first choice players to play tonight but failed to reach his usual heights and his shooting boots seem to still be mislaid, as shown when he hit the ball wide on 54 minutes and failed to worry the keeper with free-kicks from the edge of the box.

Marlon Harewood – 5 – Produced a nice knock-down for Nathan’s goal. But, ever popular Marlon failed to take the opportunity that these 90 minutes presented to show that Martin is wrong not to be starting with him during Big John’s absence.

Nathan Delfouneso – 7 – MOTM – Hit a splendid volley from 20 yards to find the gap between keeper and post which give him a goal on his debut and offered us hope of a comeback that never materialised. Looks a real prospect, his task is now to fulfil that promise which other young talented strikers (Gabby apart) have found difficult to do in recent years.

Substitutes:

James Milner – 6 – Replaced Osbourne for the last 25 minutes but was unable to pull us away from defeat in that timescale and he and Gareth might reasonably have come on nearer to half time to give them enough time to save things.

Gareth Barry – 6 – Replaced Salifou on 68 minutes and we did huff and puff following the introduction of James and himself, but we could have played 40 rather than 4 minutes of injury time and against 9 rather than 10 men and still have not found a winner.

Gabby Agbonlahor – 6 - Replaced our debutant scorer on 76 minutes but not on long enough to get into the game and change its course.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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I think Shorey had flu actually. Also a win would not have guaranteed us top spot. Hamburg could still have pipped us with a win against us. Having said that we were poor and it was a disappointing night.

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Thanks for the report, John.

I must admit that I have become fed up of paying decent money for O'Neill to put out an ill-prepared, unmotivated team out on the pitch. He underestimated the opponents last night, and just as he was to blame for the poor draw on Saturday and should take the plaudits for the brilliant win at Arsenal, he can take the blame for this loss. He needs to find out why we are so ridiculously poor at home at the moment, and fix it because I have yet to see anything in the past five home games or so which to me suggests we are anywhere near challenging for Champions League.

The players and management need to sort themselves out and quickly, because with Everton now right behind us and playing us on Sunday at their place followed by an in form Bolton at a Villa Park where we are leaking points we are going to find ourselves playing catch up once again.

Still, on a personal level at least I can say that I've learnt MON clearly doesn't take cup competitions seriously - Leicester, QPR, Prague (which somehow we managed to win) and last night - until we start taking things seriously in competitions I'm not going to bother spending more money to watch a reserve team play - I'll join the 15,000 other stay aways.

Brad Guzan - 5 - Not as good as he was in Prague for a long way. Should have done better with the first.

Nigel Reo-Coker – 5 - not a right back. First goal came from his side. As you pointed out, would have been better to use in the middle.

Zat Knight– 2 - Prat. Didn't concentrate on the first, didn't put a quick enough challenge in for the second. Get rid. Waste of £3.5million

Carlos Cuellar – 6 – Agree with what you said on this one, John.

Luke Young - 6 – And this one.

Craig Gardner– 5 – Should have done better with the header. Not a great performance by him, but he was another being played out of position.

Moustapha Salifou – 5 – Not good enough for the Premiership, so why is he good enough in Europe? Failed to push the ball forward and Zilna controlled our midfield.

Isaiah Osbourne – 2 – Not good enough for AVFC. He slowed down any attack which went through him. Failed to challenge, failed to pass. Not good enough. There must be something in him which is making MON continue to give him chances time and time again, but I just can't see it.

Ashley Young – 6 – Tried, but as with the past month, Young's delivery was poor all night.

Marlon Harewood – 5 – Nice knock down but perhaps showed why he doesn't get a chance in the Premiership. Had a decent chance.

Nathan Delfouneso – 7 – MOTM – Offered a bit of hope. Tried. Good shot for the goal, too.

Substitutes:

James Milner – 5 - Failed to get himself into the game once he came on and when he did his crossing was poor. Robertson needs to get working on him.

Gareth Barry – 6 – Tried, but it was too late by the time he came on as it's hard to play with ten men behind the ball. Another free header missed tonight, too.

Gabby Agbonlahor – 5 - At one point I had forgotten he had come on.

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Hi John. Another great report on the Villa Zilina game. I see from the above threads, feelings are running high from some very disappointed Villa supporters and like me, they are feeling humiliated by our team's efforts! However, rather than say what has already been commented on, i would rather make a statement on what i see as two positives to come out of the Zilna game. The first is obviously about Delfouneso, who i have watched for some time now and i'm very glad to say he tries to play the game the right way, with invention and is not afraid to try his tricks, which he has many. He's actually starting to remind me of Dwight and if he turns out half as good, then we Villa fans are in for a treat. I believe he well might be a real gem if his tricks are not coached out of him? In my opinion, Delfouneso should now be our third choice striker, ahead of Harewood, who is another failed MON signing and should be sold in the January transfer window! The second positive, well i think MON should pull the manager of Zilna aside and ask him how much he wants for Strba, who was the best player on the pitch by a long way. He simply ran the game and i'm sure wouldn't cost a massive fee. He is also big and strong and would stand up to the rigors of the Premiership very well. Noticed he is practically one footed when he let the ball run accross him to his right foot when he should have used his left with only Guzan to beat. However, there are benefits when you play in European football, because the manager sees players he wouldn't normally see and consequently, i think Strba would be a very astute signing by MON. I know you don't normally judge a player on one game, but he is certainly streets ahead of our second string midfield, and better than most of our first choice little generals! I'm sure someone is going to buy him and i rather it be us! Anyway, now for Everton and lets hope we can keep out Cahill. If we do this, since Everton don't have any fit strikers, we shouldn't lose the game? Ciaran.

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