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Both Villa and Everton’s European aspirations take a hit!


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Two goals in the last 20 minutes showed Everton that we do not fade away during the last 30 minutes of every game and left them still 4 points behind us with just 4 games remaining to make those points up.

This was a battle between two evenly matches sides who have in the past couple of seasons threatened to finish among the top four but who have fallen short of that target due to less than convincing starts or ends to their respective seasons. This was a more than decent point given that we twice came back from being a goal down having failed not once but twice to pick up Cahill from a free kick and then a corner. But, we really needed all three points last night if we were to continue to entertain realistic ambitions of pegging back both Manchester City and Spurs by the end of the season who after this game stand 7 and 6 points ahead of us respectively. I think this and our previous two home games look likely to have limited our ambitions to a top 6 place and to securing more points than we did last season because as we did in our two previous home games against Sunderland and Wolves we came back from being a goal down at home but could not get a win and were therefore forced to settle for 3 draws when 3 wins would have kept us well in the hunt for fourth.

Villa started the game with a determination to put our cup defeat behind us against a team who unlike us had the luxury of a weekend off to prepare for this game. But, their opening goal which came half way through the first half drained us of what confidence we had and produced a game of two halves within one half as they became as dominant in the second quarter of the game as we had been in the first. At half time I think most of us would have reluctantly took the point that we ended with and the team do deserve credit for coming back from being a goal behind to deny Everton the 3 points they sought to bring us within their sights. What we now need to do is to finish the season strongly. We face three games where we will start as favourites before we face Manchester City away on the penultimate game of the season. Who knows they might slip up between now and then as might Spurs so lets make sure we remain in touch in case they do!

My player ratings from a game that may have extinguished our hopes of a top 4 finish but that increased our chances of ending the season seventh or better are:

Brad Freidel – 6 – Did well to punch out an Osman shot on 13 minutes and showed good reactions to claim the ball from the resultant corner. Got a hand to Cahill’s second but was unable to keep it out.

Carlos Cuellar – 6 – Steady at the back on this occasion when he was called upon to defend in the right back position he continues to appear in. But he offers little when in the opposition half other than a long throw and an aerial threat when inside the box but when he is outside of the penalty area crosses from a centre half will rarely match those of a full back. Should really have done better when he got on the end of a good cross from Milner on 41 minutes but his header lacked direction was too near the keeper and so gave Howard the opportunity to save easily enough.

James Collins – 6 – Steady enough alongside the commanding Dunne last night.

Richard Dunne – 7 – Rock solid and so determined at the heart of our defence as was demonstrated with his strong challenge on Osman that prevented their second which ultimately came from the resulting corner.

Stephen Warnock - 6 – Solid at the back and played his part alongside Dunne in denying Osman when a second goal had looked on for them but he came out worst of the 3 players involved and this led to the injury that in turn forced him off on 77 minutes. Stephen is not quite back to his best when moving forward and he needs to step up a gear again to get back to the performance level he had been at up until recently if he is to secure that summer place that he seeks in the England World Cup squad.

Stewart Downing – 6 – Started well and hit a decent shot at the end of a good run on 7 minutes that Howard did well to keep out and fed Milner in the build up to our first. Expected to spend a lot of time putting a foot in (which he is not nearly as good as Ash at doing) as one of two wide players in a midfield four and this has an impact on him getting forward on the flank that needs to be considered by those who question his performances as does the run of games he has played on coming back from what was a lengthy spell on the sidelines through injury.

James Milner – 8 – MOTM – Gave everything he had last night and worked himself once more to the point of exhaustion for the good of our football club. Hit a shot from a cross from Gabby on 11 minutes that Howard did well to keep out and hit a lovely cross on 65 minutes that just needed a touch but did not get one.

Stiliyan Petrov - 6 – Started very well and then continued to work hard throughout the rest of the game although less prominently.

Ashley Young – 6 – Like Downing spent a lot of time covering in the middle and almost as much time defending in wide positions as he did in attacking ones. But, his crosses led to second half problems for Howard on 69 minutes when the keeper misjudged a cross that went untouched and just wide and then with the good cross after a one-two with Milner that Jagielka sent goal bound and that Howard was only able to help into the corner of the net for our late second equalizer on 91 minutes.

John Carew – 5 – Big John’s recent impressive goal glut appears to have dried up and without his goals there might even be a case to argue that we might want to consider starting with Emile this weekend. Had a good opportunity to square things on 31 minutes but screwed his shot into the side netting without testing the keeper.

Gabriel Agbonlahor – 6 – Ended his own recent goal drought with his first goal since late February when he glanced a fine Milner cross into the net and inside the far post on 72 minutes. Otherwise like his fellow front runner was relatively quiet for most of the game.


Nathan Delfouneso –Replaced the injured Warnock on 77 minutes and not on long enough to make a positive impression or to earn a rating.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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