What a crazy 7 days for Aston Villa football club and its fans, in this time have drawn at home to Norwich, won away at Swindon Town in the Capital One Cup and then secured 3 vital away points at Sunderland.
Well looking back over this period it was seen by many that last Saturday’s game against Norwich City as a step backwards only getting one point instead of three against a team we beat last season at Villa Park. Attention then turned towards Tuesday’s night game with hope and wanting to continue Aston Villa’s most successful cup competition, we knew it was a potential banana and we need to respect our opposition. Swindon Town had previously dispatched of Burnley and Stoke City in previous rounds and Paulo Di Canio’s paper talk had stirred things more with his exaggerated opinions about that games.
Aston Villa had a recalled Shay Given for this fixture and once again had benched Darren Bent both decision caused a discussion amongst the fans on route to the ground. Shay’s lack of first team games in the league is testament to how much things have changed at Aston Villa since Lambert’s arrival with the improvement of American keeper Brad Guzan. Aston Villa took a two goal lead at the half-time interval and were looking comfortable whilst Swindon had more shots but nothing really concrete or looked in danger of threatening Villa’s goal. Swindon made substitution late on in the game who single handily changed the game and momentum soon switched and the mood became more intense. In the final 10 mins of the game Aston Villa had 4 strikers on their field and made it count with some lovely build up play and their was Villa’s big Belgium beast to send Villa into the next round and travelling 3,000 +fans into raptures.
Once again the fans question who would get in the next round as many times before we have been picked against the big clubs as that’s the kind of luck Villa fans are used to. Villa fans had to wait another 24hrs to find out the fate and lucky were given an away tie against no other than Norwich City, the words on Villa fans mouths could this be our year. The fixture was confirmed on Friday evening to be played on Tuesday 11th December at Carrow Road with allocation of 4,000.
Attention quickly turned to Saturday’s game with Aston Villa facing Sunderland and their former manager Martin O Neill at the Stadium of Light.Its fair to say this game had a few ex’s between the two sides and was Lambo vs ONeill (pupil vs teacher). With the momentum Aston Villa were travelling up for a good game against a side who had only won once all season and the stats for Sunderland werent pretty reading the least shots on target in the entire prem,accompanied with fewest goals scored,conceded the most corners.
Aston Villa had more ammunition in their corner following the worst start in 43 years and had recorded a win on the road since January against Wolverhampton Wanderers a team which evidently got relegated to the Championship. The thought of getting one over MON was an also a nice thought im sure with players in Villa’s squad that in MON eye’s had no chance of playing in the Premier League. One person in particular a casualty of this treatment was Barry Bannan who was sent out on loan to Blackpool as well as Derby County. The lineup was revealed as normal an hour before the game and Darren Bent wasnt included in the provisional 17 man selection,this was backed up with a statement saying Darren Bent had picked up a knock in Friday’s training session. As much as Paul Lambert and Darren Bent try to deny there is issues between themselves I think it’s a no smoke without fire, with Karim El Almadi picking up a yellow card in the week for a cumulative 5 meant that Ashley Westwood was brought into the squad.
So with the squad welcoming a fresh face into the first team squad rewards Ashley Westwood with his first full Premier League debut it was going to an interesting game and a chance to see his ability and he gave a good account of himself. The squad was the same as Swindon Town but with the addition of Ashley Westwood and returning defender Joe Bennett follow his suspension following being sent on at the Norwich City game.
The game itself was a very enjoyable one for a neutral and back up what I had been told and the stats had shown that Sunderland were able to pass the ball but unable to get many shots on target and yesterday was no exception. Aston Villa allowed Sunderland to do what they wanted during the first half but Sunderland returned from the dressing room with Martin ONeill still ringing in their ears and looked more threatening in the first 10 mins. Aston Villa then delivered the sucker punch to Sunderland with a great team goal with Gabby Agbonlahor starting the ball rolling and was involved throught with great movement off the ball as a cross from the wing found Christian Benteke. Benteke height allowed him to get over the defender and head it down for Gabby to lash home from 6 yards out.
Gabby Agbonlahor was met with a meaty challenge from former teammate Carlos Cuellar so celebrations we muted as Gabby needed treatment for a couple of minutes afterwards. Aston Villa continued to press and went in search of a second goal to secure the 3 points more so following Villa’s inability to switch off and fail in keeping a clean sheet. Brad Guzan saved Villa with Sunderland’s only clear chance of the game when a shot came in Guzan who was unable to hold it first time but jumped to deny a rebound, it wouldn’t have mattered as the linesmen had flagged for offside.
An indication of 4 added minutes meant that Sunderland were in search of an equalizer in the dying moments and would be pushing Villa back further into their own half hoping a pressured mistake. Sunderland were almost given a lifeline with Frazier Campbell’s glancing header which wide past Brad Guzan’s post. Villa hung on for the final moments and their was sense of relief and joy from the fans and most importantly the players who once again came over to thank the travelling fans.
Aston Villa now face a tough running in during before the Christmas and New Year period in the coming weeks face Manchester United,Manchester City,Arsenal,QPR,Reading,Liverpool.
Let hope that Paul Lambert has found his best formation and squad to accommodate a winning formula that can send Aston Villa back up the table.
Here are what it meant to the Villa players with a few photos