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Reserves Vs. Chelsea


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Villa Reserves vs. Chelsea

Fine fare for reserves watchers, with a cracking 4-3 win over Chelsea. A very welcome return for the irrepressible Wilfred Bouma and one or two of Chelsea’s big stars too, but mostly just a treat for those of us still trying to get over Sunday.

This game was moved from Hinckley United, the home of the nil-nil, to Villa Park, and I think the decision paid dividends with a good sized crowd and plenty of goals.

Teams news, and importantly for us the Villa Park comeback it’s okay to like, Wilfred Bouma back in the number three shirt and looking lean and mean.

Stuart Taylor started behind him and the rest of the back four were Lichaj, Clark and Lowry. In midfield we started with Weimann on the left, Bannan and Hogg central and Albrighton down the right, and up front Marlon Harewood and Nathan Delfouneso.

Not to be outdone, Chelsea started with £24m man Michael Essien, Ricardo Carvalho, and their bright young hopeful Miroslav Stoch.

Also settling in amongst the Villa fans was Craig Gardner, I presume here to see his brother Gary who was on the bench and not as was suggested, because it was free.

Chelsea, wearing yellow, kicked off towards the Holte End and immediately settled into a rhythm. So much so that only three minutes had passed when Stoch ghosted passed Lichaj and crossed for Van Aanholt, who put Chelsea ahead.

It wasn’t as good as his stunning volleyed own goal in last years reserve game, but it was still a neat finish. Chelsea looked very tidy and Villa needed to wake up.

We did almost immediately, with Nathan Delfouneso shooting wide and Lowry heading over a Bannan free kick.

Stoch continued to pester Lichaj thought in an open and lively start with Marlon seeming particularly keen to keep things moving; he warmed himself up with a lively rollocking of a tardy ball boy.

Stoch was again involved a moment later, hammering a free kick against the angle of post and bar from a good 25 yards out. Taylor didn’t stand a chance, and was happy to see Jacob Mellis head the rebound ten yards wide from ten yards out.

If Villa were as rattled as the post it didn’t show and Jonathon Hogg’s early ball forward lead to an equaliser. Marlon Harewood stormed passed his man before centering for Delfouneso to poke home.

Lifted by the goal Villa started to press, Albrighton scuffing a ball through a crowd of players that somehow eluded Delfouneso and Weimann.

Frank Nouble was proving a handful at the other end and keeping Lowry and Clark on their toes, but Villa looked the more likely scorers with Albrighton now operating down the left.

Weimann on the right was profiting too, and following great work from him, Harewood laid the ball off to Bannan who shot inches wide from the edge of the box.

Chelsea remained a threat on the break and it was Stoch again who broke free down the right to cross for Mellis who made no mistake with his header this time and put Chelsea back in front, slightly against the run of the play.

The run of play was having none of it though, and almost from the restart a Bannan ball found Hogg charging through the middle, he brought it down perfectly and rounded the keeper in one movement before sliding home to bring us back on terms.

This seemed to upset the Chelsea keeper, who had to have the trainer come on for a bit of love and to give his face a bit of a wipe. He was also allowed a new shirt to cheer him up a bit.

Villa were getting on top and creating chances, the clearest of which fell to Weimann who might have done better with his volleyed effort from inside the box but shot wide.

Moments later, Delfouneso raced clear of the defence, but was cynically brought down just outside the corner of Chelsea’s box by the keeper. The ref deemed it a yellow card offence, and our friend in fluorescent orange can consider himself a lucky boy.

Enter Barry Bannan, centre stage. His whipped, dipping free kick got the slightest of touches from the keeper before firmly striking the crossbar and falling temptingly at the feet of Ciaran Clark who buried it with no little glee; Villa finally ahead!

A fabulous half of football ended with Villa pressure, Marlon a nuisance, Delfouneso cool and Albrighton flying. The first forty-five felt like ten minutes.

The second half opened at a much more sedate pace, with both sides probing for an opening and looking threatening, but the home side gradually began to assert themselves.

Delfouneso won the ball from Essien, played it out wide to Albrighton and got on the end of his cross, but couldn’t get enough behind it to force more than a regulation save.

Chelsea broke the game up, and the ref seemed to be spending a lot of time having to administer talking toos and sort out (very) minor injuries. In between, Villa seemed to struggle for rhythm and Chelsea looked a little unthreatening on the break.

This Villa side are exceptionally fit though, and Jim Henry can take great pride in the way that they often seem to take games like this by the scruff of the neck after about an hour.

Villa were quick, snappy and full of bite, and definitely in control of things.

And so, as in the first half, it was Chelsea who had the next chance. A ball over the top found Mellis clean through with only the keeper ahead of him. Impressively, his first touch actually took the ball back towards his own goal and he followed this by scuffing a shot very wide. Not one he’ll look back on with much pride.

Delfouneso again won the ball in midfield and unleashed the Hare, a fired up Marlon drove at the Chelsea defence, found a yard of space and cracked a shot against the post with the keeper beaten.

Bouma showed there’s nothing wrong with his defensive instincts, taking a rocket shot from Stoch full in the face. It produced a collective Oooh from the crowd that Typhoo would be proud of. Bouma was largely unfussed, as he was with pretty much everything Chelsea threw at him.

Villa always looked like scoring, and so we did. Bannan opened Chelsea up with a lovely ball for Delfouneso, who controlled it very well and placed a firm shot passed the keeper into the net, well taken and the goal of a striker full of confidence.

Two goals up with not too long left, what could possibly go wrong?

Erm..well, Essien could hit a speculative long range shot which could take a deflection off Clarke to wrong foot Taylor.

Four – three, and Villa under pressure.

In truth, we saw out the remainder with some confidence, and could have scored another, Sam Williams strike coming out to Albrighton who forced a great block from Van Aanholt.

In games like this, the whistle always comes too soon and when it did, we were good value for our win.

It extends our lead at the top of the Barclays Premiership Reserve League South and sets us up nicely for the rest of the season, but more than that, it was a great advert for the game, and a great credit to Aston Villa Football Club; long may it continue.

Some ratings;

Taylor (6) He looked a little unsure at times, and didn’t take control of the back four as much as he would usually do. Not to blame for any of their goals though.

Lichaj (6) Found Stoch a real handful at the start of the game but plugged away and came back into it. By the end he was playing well and frustrating the life out of the burly Nouble.

Bouma (7) He was calm, unflustered and relaxed. He passed the ball well, competed and defended solidly. He didn’t do anything dramatic but he was rock solid throughout. Sound familiar?

Clark (7) He enjoyed his goal and played well. He was generally calm, distributed decently and did well in the air. With a little more brawn he could be a class act.

Lowry (8.) Brawny. Today he was smart too; he looked very comfortable at centre back and dealt with everything that came his way well. Despite the fact that we conceded three goals, I thought he was excellent.

Hogg (8.) Hoggy tired towards the end, and it’s not surprising. He’s been away a long time and never stopped moving in the first half. Up against Essien and loving it, he got forward well, broke up play and played some good passes. It’s great to see him back and scoring.

Albrighton (7) Beat the fullback on endless occasions and was full of running; he was unlucky not to score towards the end of the game and showed why he’s made it to the edge of the first team. The one criticism tonight was that he too often tried to beat one man too many and held onto the ball too long.

Weimann (7) A very good game from Andreas; he was a threat down either flank and worked hard when we didn’t have possession, another who could have come away with a goal to show for his nights work.

Harewood (8.) This was the return of the Harewood of last season. The beast was back and loving it. He bullied, he harassed, he chased and he worked his socks off. This was a good nights work.

Delfouneso (8.) The Fonz was classy tonight, he dropped deep to start things off, he worked the flanks, made himself available for things and showed a real intelligence in touch and positioning. Mostly though, he showed he knows how to get on the end of things, and how to finish them when he gets there. This was a performance of maturity.

Subs;

Williams (6) Grafted and worked but couldn’t find a break.

Collins (6) couldn’t get into things after replacing Delfouneso.

Finally, a word for the referee Mr Lewis, who I thought was refreshingly good, and the crowd who were in good spirits throughout, even evil Craig was smiling at the end.

The reserves are back at Villa Park next Tuesday, 10th March at 19:00 against Portsmouth.

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Ah poop, I'm getting ever so careless of late.

Bannan (8.) Pulled the strings, made some great challenges and worked his socks off. He's got that little touch of quality to create chances and start things off.

How's that?

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Great report of a great game. Real end-to-end stuff! I think there's a good few of those youngsters playing last night that will feature on the big stage more and more next season. Albrighton looks like a James Milner type player, jinking and weaving his way through the defence and Bannan continues to impress. Comedy Marlon did well last night (as one would expect at this level) but I wish he would make the step up when given the opportunity. Great team effort overall and Bouma 'The Rock' is back!

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Ah poop, I'm getting ever so careless of late.

Bannan (8.) Pulled the strings, made some great challenges and worked his socks off. He's got that little touch of quality to create chances and start things off.

How's that?

Shame on you, overlooking your short brethren !

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