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90 minutes from Wembley Part Deux!


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This was not as comfortable a win as the score would suggest or that it really should have been given the number of opportunities we had but a win and an important win it was!

We started this game strongly and put a game Palace outfit under the cosh for much of the first half as had been the case in the first game between the two sides. But, as was the case at Selhurst Park we were unable to turn possession and chances into the goals that would make this game ours.

Having scored one goal it seemed we had thought that would prove enough and that we would be able to coast through the second half to inevitable victory. But, one goal is rarely enough as it only takes one moment to change a game and it had always looked like two goals would be needed to make this game safe to me. So we surrendered some initiative to Palace in the second half who had the better of things for much of it particularly in the midfield area up until they scored their equalizer. But, that seemed to awaken us and we then took over the game or should I say John Carew did as it was his late two goal penalty haul that were each earned by him following fouls on him that banished the threat of unwanted extra time and the prospect of a shock exit from a competition that seems to be opening up for us.

My player ratings from a game that left us in the last eight of the FA Cup and facing a tie at Reading rather than one at The Hawthorns as had been so widely anticipated are:

Brad Guzan – 6 – Rarely tested but was solid enough when the ball did find its way to him. It was noticeable that he does not currently command his box in the way that Brad the Elder does and it may be that he still has a way to go to regain his own confidence in himself and that of his defenders in him. Failed to save a penalty which is most unusual for him when he was sent the wrong way by Ambrose for their equalizer on 72 minutes.

Luke Young – 7 – A welcome return to the team and to his best starting position. Solid as always and he completes our defence when playing in this position with Warnock on the left and with our solid central defenders between them.

Carlos Cuellar – 8 – Won literally everything in the air and there were a lot of high balls there to have been won. Carlos also nodded a Downing free kick on and just wide of the post on 50 minutes.

Richard Dunne – 7 – A very able captain for the night in Petrov’s absence. Gave a solid display and busied himself in organising our back line throughout last night. Might have got a second goal for us on 75 minutes when he reached a fine Ashley Young cross that only appeared to need a mere touch to go in but somehow the ball sailed well over the bar when he connected with it.

Stephen Warnock - 7 – Our best overlapping full back since Stan Staunton had another very good game. Solid at the back and a potent threat when moving forward down the flank as was demonstrated on 29 minutes with a good run that took him to a shooting position but he chose instead to square the ball for Carew who would have had a tap in had he reached the ball but perhaps surprised and not anticipating the ball being played to him he failed to do so. Lee went down under his challenge for their penalty but I wonder if he himself had been fouled by Lee immediately before that?

Stewart Downing – 7 – Another encouraging performance. Might have added another goal to his two from our last game when he ran across the box on 87 minutes and hit a stinging shot that Speroni kept out.

James Milner – 7 – Not at his sharpest and like the rest of the squad needs to rest up and be put in cotton wool between now and his Cup Final appearance. Nevertheless he worked himself into the ground as he always does and hit a good shot just wide and into the side netting on 81 minutes.

Fabian Delph - 7 – Started brightly but like others tried to be a little over elaborate at times when the simple things might have produced the end results he and they were looking for. But, he is learning, will only get better and has looked made for our first team in his recent appearances.

Ashley Young – 8 – Had a very encouraging game last night and is getting nearer to his very best with each game that he plays. He will worry the Manchester United defence as I am sure will others in our team. Had a decent shot deflected wide for a corner on 24 minutes and then hit a shot from a tight angle that almost surprised the keeper who pushed it over for a corner. Ended a good run on 65 minutes with a measured shot that the keeper did well to keep out.

John Carew – 8 – MOTM - Guided a Young cross into Speroni’s hands on 6 minutes and then had a firm shot blocked by the keeper on 22 minutes. But, looked a pale imitation of his former self until he was pulled down inside the box as he turned on 79 minutes. He then grabbed the ball and hit a penalty so fiercely into the corner of the net that it was a shock the ball did not burst through it. He was then brought down again in the box on 87 minutes when shielding the ball very well from a growing increasingly frustrated by the moment defender who could take no more. Big John then placed rather than blasted the resultant penalty into the same corner as he had done minutes earlier to seal our Quarter Final place. After his first goal his confidence seemed to flood back and the blue touch paper was well and truly lit. John showed for the first time in a long time that he still has it in him to terrorise defences, be the ball holding target man and the regular scorer that has so endeared him to us since his arrival at the club. His late goals settled the tie.

Gabby Agbonlahor – 7 – Got the ball tangled up in his feet on 2 minutes when delivered the ball inside of the 6 yard box and a scoring opportunity looked on. Ran into the box on 15 minutes and with a defender closing and the keeper to beat hit the ball at Speroni who blocked his effort. Hit our equalizer on 41 minutes with a lovely header that glided past Speroni and into the corner of the net. Ran into the box again on 63 minutes and with Speroni to get past hit his effort down the keeper’s throat. Gabby worked well for the first two thirds of the game although at times seemed to ignore the offside rule.


Steve Sidwell – Replaced Delph on 75 minutes. Not on long enough to earn a rating.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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