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Villa come from behind to claim a 2nd Big 4 scalp!


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Chelsea fans chanted “You’re worse than Birmingham” when they were one up but those words stuck in their throats as they trooped out of the ground pointless at the end of a second successive terrifically entertaining game at Villa Park!

Neither a late start to this early kick off, nor having a strong penalty claim turned down with the greatest of ease by a substitute referee who was clearly no friend of ours and who refereed as if he had been plucked straight off the Chelsea team bus or going a goal down minutes later could deny us the victor’s spoils yesterday.

This was a game that in the past we would not have won. We have shown too much respect for the likes of Chelsea before (although Villa Park rarely for a top 4 side has not been a particularly happy hunting ground other than last season for them) and going a goal down has rarely led to much for us in the past against the SKY 4. But, Martin has developed a real football team that will play for each other. We have a defence that moves forward as a unit. We have a defence that will not buckle under pressure and a team that works hard and then works harder still.

Martin’s transfer window signings Richard Dunne and James Collins are proper defenders and you get the feeling that we really have a defence that is capable of holding onto a lead now as well as supplying the goals to win games as they did today. We pose a threat at set pieces that we have not since Martin Laursen last played in our shirt. We show a thirst to win balls that are played into our box that we have also not shown since Martin last appeared for us. It may have taken two players to replace him but I think Martin may just have done the trick.

Chelsea will be there at the title shake up. They are a very good team, they move the ball well. They are usually solid at the back and pose a serious threat up front. But, fortress Villa Park as it will become if we can show the same level of performance against the likes of Bolton, Spurs, Hull and Stoke when they come calling between now and Christmas is not a place where the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and I trust now Manchester United can now turn up expecting to take points. There was not a lot to choose between the two teams yesterday. Neither team could afford to drop points. I just think Chelsea would have been more satisfied with a point than we would have been and for me that shows real progress and true ambition.

My player ratings from a game that showed we can look the likes of Chelsea in the eye as we did Liverpool at Anfield without flinching are:

Brad Freidel - 7 – Made up for that rare slip on 14 minutes when a speculative Drogba shot took a wicked bounce over him and into the net with a string of top drawer saves afterwards. Just got to a clever Deco chip on 35 minutes to push it past the post and denied the same player on 57 minutes when his legs got in the way of a 57th minute shot. Brad punched out a goal bound shot from Malouda on 59 minutes and saved with his legs again on 73 minutes when Anelka was left with just him to beat and an equaliser had looked on.

Carlos Cuellar – 7 – No nonsense defending from Carlos yesterday. At the hint of danger the ball was put into the stand unceremoniously and he made a couple of well timed tackles. A strong defensive display against a difficult opponent in Malouda.

Richard Dunne – 8 – That’s two goals in two games for our latest Irish hero. Young whipped in a lethal corner on 31 minutes which Lampard could only nod on (for an assist), Richard duly lost his marker Carvalho and his diving determined header found the net at the near post for our well merited equaliser. Richard found no difficulty in celebrating this one and might have had a second after the break but could not quite direct that one.

James Collins – 8 – MOTM – Alongside Richard Dunne he forms a formidable central defensive partnership. They did so well together to nullify the not insignificant threat that Drogba and Anelka’s partnership presents. Not content with another fine defensive display he then turned up with the winner and his first goal in a Villa claret & blue shirt when on 51 minutes he was left unmarked on the edge of the six yard box and his firm header left Terry bouncing up and down on the line like a frustrated schoolboy. Made a tremendous block on 40 minutes when Drogba seemed to have been left with just Freidel to beat.

Stephen Warnock - 7 – Looking better each week which will be a concern to Bouma as he continues his recovery and to Shorey who was perhaps on form unlucky to lose his place. But, we have one of the best left backs in the league playing for us now and he will prove very, very hard to shift from our starting line up.

James Milner – 8 – Another top notch display from James. Box to box, all action a threat up front and a barrier to their progress in his own half.

Steve Sidwell – 7 – Had a point to prove to those who had labelled him a “Chelsea reject” yesterday and he could walk off the field with head high having made his point.

Stiliyan Petrov – 8 – Added some impressive forward movement to his usual role of holding together our midfield and gave a most impressive display.

Ashley Young – 7 – Took the corners that led to the goals and found Milner well on 72 minutes, James then put the ball across for Carew who was not quite able to apply the necessary touch. Still not at his best moving forward and he seems to miss the link he had with Barry that led to much of our attacking football going down his wing. But he did a lot of good work tracking back when Chelsea looked to get back into the game.

John Carew – 7 – Worked himself to a standstill up until he was replaced on 81 minutes to another ovation from the stands. Worked hard up front and relished the challenge that coming up against Terry provided. Dropped back to form a midfield five when they had possession as the game wore on.

Gabby Agbonlahor – 7 – Found by a good early ball inside the box on 10 minutes and was clearly brought down as he was about to pull the trigger by Bosingwa. But, this was one set piece the referee made sure we had no opportunity to convert. Gabby hit a purple patch near the end of the first half. He hit a terrific cross on 44 minutes which proved just too high for Sidwell, he then powered a tremendous header from the edge of the box having won a challenge that referee Friend adjudged a foul and that Carew volleyed over. Ashley Cole was then booked having brought Gabby down when his pace had took him past him and on the stroke of half time he raced onto a ball that ran clear but Cech had sensed the danger and reached the ball first. Looked every inch an England striker during that spell.


Emile Heskey – Replaced the tiring Big John on 82 minutes and looked livelier than of late when coming off the bench I loved the way he shielded the ball in the corner as the game neared its conclusion. Not on long enough to rate.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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Absolutely spot on with your ratings and comments, John, except I would probably give Friedel 8 too - despite his stuff-up with Drogba's goal, his subsequent efforts made sure we were still in the game :) For me, Brad challenges Collins and Dunne for MOTM :)

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Brad was very near an 8 Fantram which given he held his hand up for their goal shows how good his performance was after that. I agree we had some very good performances yesterday and near enough half of the team were in the running for MOTM.

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Good post John and I thought your ratings were good.

It doesn't surprise me that all the excuses come out in the media regarding our only edge is set pieces.

I find it rather embarassing and desperate to resort to such lows.

However, if we are going to wine friends outside of B6 in the future months/years.... we will need to defend less deep and pass the ball a little better.... but hey thats me being picky.

the team spirit and willingness to work for each other was awesome.

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"As well as Chelsea have played all season," according to more than one. And I was impressed as impressed as I was last season in the away fixture with their passing and build-up. They have a very decent defensive record too this season, but I thought this side of their play was less impressive. And is Bosingwa so wonderful that most of the time they didn't double-mark him?

Chelsea looked very good near goal too, but I think the fact they only scored once was due to some superb heroics by Friedel and the wonderful Collins, though the other 3 defenders were pretty wonderful too. For me Warnock had his best game.

Some uniform high marks there John. Not like you at all. As someone else has said elsewhere, several candidates for Man-of-the-Match: Friedel, Dunne, Collins, Warnock, Petrov, Milner, Gabby, even Martin O'Neill despite an untimely lapse in concentration, which Anelka certainly made him pay for. I think he got the tactics just right. I groaned when I saw he was going 4-2-4, but this was fine for a match against this Chelsea side, as indeed it was for Man Citeh a fortnight earlier.

So who could you have given a low mark to? One or two would say Carew but they don't post on VT any more. Nobody really is there!

Like TRO I would like to see an improvement in the passing and I also agree with what he says about the team spirit etc. We've shaken off the home bogey and we've beaten Liverpool and Chelsea and got a good draw against a Man City with a rampant Bellamy. Things are going very well at present, roll on the next game.

Thanks for another great report.

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We do defend a little deeper than I am comfortable with as well TRO but it seems to be working :winkold: & it was their defending errors that contributed to our two goals from set pieces and we might have had another if that penalty had been given.

I'm sure we would all like to see moves such as Gabby's headed cross near half time that Big John voleyed over or Young's cross for Milner that he put into Big John's path on 72 minutes produce goals that would leave the Chelsea manager needing to look for another reason to be negative about our win. But, I'm happy enough for the lions share of our goals to come from well worked set pieces its part of the game and they count for goals in the same way one as one that comes from a 12 pass move would.

Some uniform high marks there John. Not like you at all


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