Monday, February 11, 2008

It was like watching the rugby

Aston Villa 4 - 1 Newcastle Utd

Seemingly taking their lead from the English rugby team, Newcastle turned in a second half performance so abject that a game we could have won rapidly became a scoreline which suggested we were completely outclassed.

At half time, and following a solid first half performance in which Michael Owen had scored a good goal with a near post header from James Milner's cross, and which featured plenty of short passing and movement from a team of fragile confidence, we looked reasonable value for our lead. The hosts simply didn't appear to fancy the game, unable to impose themselves on Newcastle.

At half time, both side made changes. Villa introduced two substitutes, Newcastle simply changed their attitude. Out went the will to win, to be replaced by a bunch of overbloated grouse on August 12th, queuing up to be shot. After Wilfred Bouma's weak shot took a fortuitous deflection off Habib Beye and past a stretching Shay Given, the entire side deflated. Moments later John Carew added a second after some terrible defending by Damien Duff (if your job is to mark the post at a corner, the ball shouldn't get between you and the woodwork) and the game was already drifting out of sight. With Keegan refusing to change things, Villa continued to press forward, and more abysmal defending saw the ball pinging about the box before Carew was able to head home his second and give Villa a two goal cushion.

Only at 3-1 did Keegan replace the ineffectual Joey Barton with Emre, and at no point did it look like Mark Viduka would be called upon to replace Alan Smith, despite the fact that the latter did nothing of merit for the whole match.

With seconds to go, Stephen Carr (playing at left back, where his lack of a left foot was painfully exposed, despite Jose Enrique's presence on the bench) needlessly handled the ball, and Carew was able to complete his hat-trick, firing the ball past Harper (who had replaced Given - the Irishman picking up a groin strain as he slipped trying to reach Bouma's deflected shot).

Looking forward, it's difficult to find positives. In the first half, we passed the ball quite well, without ever really threatening to add to our opening goal. Michael Owen remains a quality striker when he has decent service, but contributes little when we can't pass the ball to him. Emre remains our most creative central midfielder - but apparently is behind Barton in the pecking order.

With Faye back from the ACN he must replace Cacapa in the team, and equally Viduka must surely replace Smith in the side if we are to stand any chance of picking up the points we need to avoid being drawn into the relegation battle. We aren't too good to go down, and the sooner the players realise this and start battling for the ball and each other, only then will we be able to start planning for next season with any confidence. Until then, the risk of us facing away trips to Sheffield and Leicester remains a very real one.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have passed something?

5:10 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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5:49 pm  

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