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Que sera sera!


John
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Well we were not expecting that were we? Two goals down within 25 minutes had wiped out our first leg advantage and left us in real danger of becoming only the third team in the 50 year history of this competition to win an away leg but not reach the final. But our six goal salvo did for Big Sam’s Blackburn and put us back at Wembley after a 10 year absence!

This was another game like the West Ham game that we started slowly but unlike West Ham, Blackburn were able to take advantage by breeching our defence twice and were also able to claim two second half goals despite being down to ten men by then. But, we pulled back two goals before half time and hit another four in the second half to take us from gloom to joy. Who would have felt at the start of the game that 10 goals would be scored or that we could still go through having conceded 4 at home?

Having faced Blackburn twice already in January Big Sam had identified a couple of potential weaknesses in our game. One was Brad Guzan’s potential problems in dealing with high balls delivered into the 6 yard box and another was Carlos Cuellar’s potential difficulty in dealing with quicker wide men when playing out of position. Both Blackburn’s goals came from the wing that Luke Young would normally patrol and Brad for a second time in a cup tie at Villa Park this month failed to deal with a corner which allowed Kalinic to score. But, our strengths eventually outweighed those weaknesses that had been identified and left Big Sam bemoaning refereeing decisions and ignoring that we should have been given two penalties in the first leg that would have made last night’s game a stroll in the park.

My player ratings from a roller coaster of a game that had looked like one to forget after 25 minutes but which ended up one to remember are:

Brad Guzan – 4 – Shaky and although he has played a big role in getting us to the final this game has identified something that he needs to work hard on before he steps onto the Wembley turf at the end of next month. Came for a corner on 9 minutes that he did not get near to claiming and Kalinic levelled the tie. He then did well to get an instinctive hand to a Olsson header but Kalinic was first to the loose ball and put them in front in the tie on 26 minutes. Should have stopped Emerton’s 83rd minute effort which took a slight deflection on its way through him.

Carlos Cuellar – 6 – Played out of position again and found more difficulty in dealing with Olsson’s pace than Luke Young would have done. Playing this role does give us more aerial strength at the back but it can also expose us and at times he found difficulty on the ground when defending out wide that he does not in a central position. Was left for dead on the edge on the edge of the box in the build up to their second goal.

Richard Dunne – 7 – Earned his first cup final appearance with another good committed performance.

James Collins – 7 – Solid enough alongside Richard.

Stephen Warnock - 8 – Produced a forward’s finish on the half hour when Young’s good cross found its way to him on the far post and he got our vital first on the night to square the tie. Looked good coming forward and at the back other than when he failed to challenge for the ball for their opener no doubt under the assumption that Brad would have claimed it.

Stewart Downing – 7 – Provides good options for us and will only get better.

James Milner – 9 – MOTM – Showed great composure when hitting his penalty past Robinson and into the corner of the net on 40 minutes to put us ahead again in the tie. His shot from the edge of the box gave us our fourth. James is relishing the central midfield role. He runs and works like the Duracell bunny!

Stiliyan Petrov - 8 – Kept a cool head and the ball throughout the game and particularly in the first quarter when others were not doing the same. A captain’s performance when we most needed one to give him to follow in the steps of other Villa captains who have lifted this cup in a final. He was implored by the crowd to “shoot” on 45 minutes from 30 yards and did so hitting a rasping effort that Robinson did well to turn wide.

Ashley Young – 8 – I said of his performance against West Ham that he is getting increasingly nearer his best with each of his recent performances and this was a very, very good display. Ash clearly wanted the Wembley stage, is a big game player and he demonstrated both last night. Rounded off his display with a fine goal on 92 minutes when he ran from the half way line and bent the ball past Robinson for our sixth goal that gave the score line a more convincing look.

Emile Heskey – 7 – “Heskey scored” as Villa fans told Blackburn fans in their witty response to their less than generous comment on our England striker’s ability. Emile showed why he is an England regular last night and again did a lot of work that can go unnoticed but his goal on 61 minutes was noticed by everyone. Emile took the ball past Robinson and found the back of the net despite slipping having been put through by a splendid James Milner pass. Jumped like a salmon on 70 minutes to get a great header on target from a Downing cross that Robinson did very well to keep out.

Gabby Agbonlahor – 5 – His pace took him into the box ahead of Samba who pulled him back and brought him down on 38 minutes to earn himself an early bath and to do much to change the course of this game having up until then had Gabby in his pocket. Gabby was credited with a goal on 58 minutes when Milner’s shot from the edge of the box got a touch off his midriff and would up in the corner of the net for our fourth. Should have got our sixth on 83 minutes when Milner put him clear and his shot hit Robinson’s feet rather than the back of the net.

Substitutes:

Steve Sidwell – Replaced Downing on 86 minutes but not on long enough to earn a rating.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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Spot on, as usual, Mr Lewis - excellent analysis :) I would have like to see Stan get MOTM for his tremendous performance, but it is difficult to get past Jimmy Milner who is so often outstanding :)

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I agree with most of your ratings, John, but I'm struggling with Gabby's. It's true that he didn't score when he might have done, but he doesn't stop working, chasing, closing the ball down, and frequently pulls defenders to one side, providing openings for others.

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I know where you are coming from BobTheBuilder I struggled with giving Gabby that rating as well on a night like last night but a striker such as he is there to score goals as well as to use his pace. He is being presented with good opportunities by his team mates but is not currently getting the ratio of goals he needs to from them. I also thought he did not manage this time to raise his game in quite the way others were able to up front possibly due to a lack of confidence on his part at the present.

I agree 100% hycus-flange Blackburn must take a lot of credit for doing so much to make us sit on the edge of our seats for so long during the game and they looked a better side than their league position suggests they are last night.

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