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Villa get through to Sunday's Peace Cup final


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Aston Villa await the winner of the Juventus/Réal Madrid match after beating FC Porto 2-1 in an exciting game at La Rosaleda with goals from Emile Heskey and Steve Sidwell.

Villa started the match full of intent. They looked much sharper than they have in the competition to date. Which is just as well, given the opposition. Porto, in contrast, chose to start without their talisman, the Hulk, and it showed.

With only 14 minutes on the clock, Heskey raced into the box and Villa's new-found gem Marc Albrighton sent in a cross that Heskey out-muscled his marker to meet and glance it past the helpless goalkeeper. One-nil and all of a sudden we dared believe it could happen!

With Reo-Coker starting in the centre alongside Sidwell they looked stronger than their counterparts and with the lively Albrighton & Young on the wings Porto didn't quite know how to deal with us. The physical presence of a Carew/Heskey partnership showed the signs that on it's day at least, it could work. Though Porto's defenders were benefitting from some very picky refereeing whenever our forwards so much as raised a hand. At the back, fresh from an impressive outing against Atlante, Brad Guzan kept his place with the usual 4 of Lichaj, Cuéllar, Davies & Shorey ahead of him.

Steve Sidwell has come on in leaps and bounds in this tournament as most of the players have. He demonstrated that perfectly on 37 minutes when Villa won a corner. Instead of harrassing the goalkeeper and giving away a needless foul like he did the other night, Steve elected instead to stand further back. The ball found it's way to him and, quick as you like, he had struck it into the roof of the net. Cue a subdued celebration with Carew and on to the re-start.

Villa were leading 2-0 !! And they were very good value for it. Each Porto attack, of which there were plenty, was snuffed out before it got near Guzan. Cuéllar was continuing where he left off and Davies was looking slightly more assured beside him. I feel confident enough in saying that I've now seen enough of Cuéllar playing in his natural position to suggest that he will do well for us there this season. He has looked the best defender out there for us by a mile in this tournament. Funnily enough, the 2nd best defender I've seen is Ciaran Clark because he had to make his debut when Davies picked up a knock and had to go off. It doesn't look like too bad an injury and he will hopefully be OK for Sunday's final. But Clark proceeded to play like an old head alongside the Spaniard. This crop of youngsters has some real gems in their ranks.

Half time came and went and FC Porto introduced The Hulk. I have to say I really like this guy. He is strong, FULL of attitude, typically combustible latin character and just loves to shoot. He knows nothing but to move forward relentlessly towards goal. In that sense you know exactly what you'll get from him and Porto benefitted immensely as a result. They now had a focal point and someone who demanded the ball. It seemed as though everything went through him. As a result, our emphasis from about the 55th minute onwards became stopping them from getting through the backline.

Porto upped their pace and started to dominate possession. Albrighton, Carew & Young were having to put in a defensive shift and Guzan was having more and more to do.

A relatively rare Villa attack midway through the 2nd half escalated into farce when Young continued to play on, culminating in a half-hearted shot, while a Porto defender was down on the ground. Porto, using all of their tricks to wind people up, were furious and continued to be furious until Maicon managed to rile Heskey enough to raise his hands and push the defender away at what looked roughly like neck height. Maicon looked around to see if the ref had seen what just transpired and when it looked like he hadn't, Maicon decided he would fall to the ground in pain. The ref came over and sent Heskey off, Maicon got up happy with his work and the game continued. Someone else was booked in the middle of it all, possibly Ashley Young, but Porto now had a man advantage and Villa, having just substituted John Carew for Shane Lowry, now had no natural striker on the pitch and consequently no target man to take pressure off the defence. It would be a long night after that.

All 4 Villa defenders were putting in sterling performances at the back and that had to go into over-drive after going down to ten. Diving blocks, clearances, all the blood & guts stuff you want from a defender. For the most part Porto were having to resort to 25 yard efforts which Guzan was picking off at ease. Though with Porto regularly camped outside the box it seemed only a matter of time before someone jinked there way past a defender and earned themselves either an easy finish or a penalty.

In the last 10 minutes, Brad Guzan came into his own. He had been impressive all evening but he then had to pull off a series of brilliant saves to keep Porto out. The pick of the bunch being a point-blank finger-tip reaction save which had my American commentator purring over his compatriot.

And then, as happens so often with Villa, we made it difficult for ourselves. As Porto pressed, Reo-Coker's tackle inside the box in the 90th minute gave the referee a decision to make and the ref decided penalty. Up stepped Hulk who was never going to miss. He didn't; and Villa had 4 minutes left to hang on. But while Porto had the bulk of the remaining possession Villa held on for a very impressive and slightly unexpected victory and they now await one of the greatest names in world football, whether it be Juventus or Réal Madrid.

Oh and we're guaranteed €1,000,000 which will double if we manage to win on Sunday too.

This pre-season malarkey is kind of fun, eh ?

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....Great to hear of some success from the youngsters.... This lad albrighton seems very effective, and Cian Clark is getting some plaudits.

Brad Guzan seems to be settling and what a great result.

I can't help thinking there is some mileage in this central pair of Nigel Reo Coker & Steve Sidwell. They remind me of Mortimer & Bremner... ok in terms of success they have abit of catching up to do, but Nigel is the Warrior like Bremner and Steve is the box to Box man like Mortimer.

I have been convinced for some time that Petrov & Barry was not the answer... too passive and too slow... and last seasons last 13 games( 2 wins) compared with the middle 12 ( 8wins)went some way to indicate this where Steve Sidwell and Nigel featured heavily in the middle 12 but very little in the last 13

I actually don't think we will miss Barry, in fact in terms of effectiveness i think we will get the ball forward quicker without him.

very impressive scalp IMO.

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