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Goalless but a point well won!


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by John

Villa Park is not of late a particularly happy hunting ground for the current champions and once again they could not get the better of us on our home soil and the point we got from this game keeps us in the top half of the table!

This was a game that ebbed and flowed with one team in the ascendance followed by the other and with periods in between when both sides cancelled each other out. The woodwork saved us twice and them once and although we had decent opportunities at the start and end of the game a draw was a fair result.

We worked very, very hard as a team. We were prepared to get in the face of our opponents when they won the ball and when we had it ourselves were able to create opportunities that on another day would have seen us score a minimum of one goal. But, we did very well to keep a side that scores goals for fun without one and although they clearly missed the goals of Drogba and Lampard, we were also without first team starters who make a difference in the shape of Albrighton, Luke Young and once again Gabby, without mentioning the now reinvigorated Emile.

My player ratings from a game that Chelsea was unable to take away from us with what would have been a third second half goal avalanche in three games are:

Brad Friedel – 6 – Not a busy day at the office but did well to block a goal bound Anelka shot on 53 minutes with his feet and was thankful twice that the woodwork kept out a late Anelka effort and an Ivanovic header from a corner before that.

Habib Beye - 6 – Filled in for Luke and did a decent enough job in the first half but had a couple of worrying moments in the second.

Richard Dunne – Replaced on 12 minutes having picked up a knock. Not on long enough to rate.

James Collins – 7 – Very solid and did well as the steadying hand alongside Ciaran to deal with what goal threat that Chelsea had to offer.

Stephen Warnock - 8 – A very good display yesterday at the back and when getting forward.

Stewart Downing – 8 – He is now giving us the sort of performance level that he gave at Boro. He was a threat when we had the ball and did a lot more than many of his detractors may have felt he was capable of when they had it. A very good all round display from our top scorer.

Stiliyan Petrov – 8 – MOTM – Well he certainly put in a 94 minute shift yesterday and can be forgiven for looking weary towards the end as he had run himself into the ground to earn us a point against their tough central midfield.

Stephen Ireland – 7 – Showed a couple of signs that he can be the creative midfield player that we have been lacking but still has some ring rust to be knocked off before we see the real Stephen in our shirt for a 90 minute game. Almost found the net on 2 minutes when Petrov fed Downing who took the ball down the flank before finding Ireland on the edge of the box and his shot beat Cech but also the post by a few inches. Then another shot from the edge of the box was blocked by Ivanovic who threw himself to block Stephen’s decent effort.

Nigel Reo Coker – 8 – He is beginning to flourish in the deep role he is now performing regularly in and with our captain was in the face of the opposition at every opportunity. Might also have added a late winner when he dispossessed McEachran in the third of the four minutes of stoppage time and ran on to be faced by Cech who had come out to meet him but although he beat the keeper his effort was also some way wide. Apparently Houllier has yet to open talks on a new contract. We had better do so soon as his contract has under a year to run and we risk losing him for nothing as a result.

Ashley Young – 7 – Another hard working display got back to cover very well when they had the ball, less of a threat than in recent games when operating further forward.

John Carew – 6 – A better display than of late but he has not been himself of late and he also faded as the game wore on before making way for Nathan. Led the line well enough early on but he seems to have slowed and to now lack the sort of goal threat that he had previously given us in hot spells. Had a shot deflected wide by Cech on 5 minutes after a strong challenge by Warnock had deflected the ball onto him on the edge of the box but Heskey was missed yesterday.

Substitutes:

Ciaran Clark – 7 - Replaced Dunne on 12 minutes and was selected ahead of Carlos to come off the bench to play most of yesterday’s game. A solid performance and he might just have had a goal on 79 minutes when he got a touch onto a nice free kick from Ashley that had Cech beaten only to hit the far post.

Nathan Delfouneso – 6 – Replaced Big John on 73 minutes. Made little impression in the 21 minutes he was given to do so and needs to begin to take any chance he does get to impress his new boss.

Steve Sidwell – Replaced Ireland on 83 minutes. Not on long enough to earn a rating.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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The late kick off meant that I had to watch on the telly instead of taking up my seat, thanks to the foibles of the rail network, but anyway, there's not much to disagree with, there, John, though I think you've been generous to Ireland, perhaps and I'd have given James Collins an extra mark.

Downing was excellent, easily the best he's played for Villa.

It was pleasing to see us keep the ball well, though worrying that Warnock got booked, again, and that we lack a bit up front.

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James was as near to an 8 as Ireland was to a 6 so they were very close calls. I'm sorry that this late start and the rail network's early finish got in the way of you getting to the game. I really think there are too many of these weekend late kick offs but TV cares little for the fans who go to the games. I also think that Downing is fast looking a bargain at £12m and I thought Warnock was unlucky to be booked when the official seemed to be booking one of ours at a what was a very frequent rate in a hard but fair match.

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Downing was supreme, my MOTM, 9/10 for me, showed tenacity and aggression in parts and he kept Ashley Cole, the worlds best left back, in his pocket all game.

Warnock Stan and Coker were brilliant as well.

IMO Ireland is too smart for our team!

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Downing was supreme, my MOTM, 9/10 for me, showed tenacity and aggression in parts and he kept Ashley Cole, the worlds best left back, in his pocket all game.

Warnock Stan and Coker were brilliant as well.

IMO Ireland is too smart for our team!

Similar prognosis to when JPA first pitched up and the only player on his wavelength was Solano. I think the difference now is that Ash and DJ are both capable of developing an understanding, and playing, with SI but this needs time to develop. I also think Delph, when he comes back, will work really well with SI.

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John Carew – 6 – A better display than of late but he has not been himself of late and he also faded as the game wore on before making way for Nathan. Led the line well enough early on but he seems to have slowed and to now lack the sort of goal threat that he had previously given us in hot spells. Had a shot deflected wide by Cech on 5 minutes after a strong challenge by Warnock had deflected the ball onto him on the edge of the box but Heskey was missed yesterday.

Rest fine - but sorry john - don't get this at all - god help 'other displays' you refer to. He also 'faded' or disappeared is another word you could use, after his shot 5 mins. Hopefully GH extra training may assist Big John get some zest/effort into displays

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I take your point Oddsox this was slightly the better of what has been a run of very below par performances for him and I begin to doubt whether we will see the Big John of old again in our shirt, which would be a real pity as at his best he is very difficult for defenders to cope with.

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