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COLUMNIST PAUL TRAILL

Aston Villa (H): Frustrating defending costs Blues

By Paul Traill :  01/11/2009 :  Comments (5) :

Match Report: Everton vs Aston Villa

Ste kindly opted to drive for this one and so we were there pretty early, keen to watch the North London derby in the pub. Watching Soccer AM and listening to Radio Five Live before I left the house, a lot of talk was about a bit of a shift in power between the two rivals. I didn’t believe it and was glad Arsenal put Spurs to the sword in this one.

With Tottenham going down 3-0 and us playing Aston Villa, surely this was a great opportunity for us to gain some ground on our main competitors for the season. A mate, Tim, and Gary also joined us in the pub with Gary angry we hadn’t told him we were there sooner as he’d been stood on his jack at the other side of the pub for the best part of an hour… sorry mate!

With the bar chocka, we arrived at the ground slightly later than usual and so missed Z-Cars. Everton took to the field with players returned… finally we could maybe get going again with the season. Leighton Baines, Joseph Yobo and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov all returned straight into the team with Yakubu keeping his place. After an apparently impressive display down at Spurs in midweek, Louis Saha made the bench. Tony Hibbert was nowhere to be seen, not even on the substitutes bench…surely not another injury?

Aston Villa began with Brad Friedel making his 200th consecutive Premier League appearance in goal. He wasn’t the only ex-Red in the team either. Emile Heskey and Stephen Warnock also took to the field. Ashley Young and Gaby Agbonlahor also featured. It looked to be a difficult game. Lee Probert was the referee. We attacked the Park End in the first half.

It was a cagey opening to the game with the Goodison crowd a bit more vociferous than it has been for a while. It was probably Aston Villa who began the game better... though Everton did get themselves into it and created the first chance of the game when Heitinga showed a glimpse of what he can do, flighting in a quality ball for Yakubu to head goalwards but wide with a reasonable opportunity.

Down at the other end, Warnock volleyed narrowly wide with the ball curling back towards goal… had he have been a few yards further back, that probably would have sneaked in. Still it was lively though very tight with few chances for either side.

Villa probably had one eye on getting down the tunnel for half-time when Everton struck in injury time at the end of the first half. Cahill did superbly down the right hand side, hooking a ball back into the box. I watched the run of Bilyaletdinov as he ran across the box. Thankfully Villa didn’t and he was there to strike home right-footed after Yakubu’s mis-control. Brad Friedel got a hand to the ball but couldn’t keep it out. Excellent. We went in 1-0 at the break.

‘The Cannonball Kid’ himself Dave Hickson took to the field at half time to a rousing reception on his 80th birthday. Congratulations Sir. “He looks good for 80” commented Ste.

Aston Villa made a change at the start of the second half with John Carew replacing James Milner. Everton didn’t seem to realize this, however... and after generally piss-poor defending with Everton failing to clear their lines despite numerous opportunities, Carew stroked home right at the beginning of the second half with I think his first touch.

Thankfully, Villa didn’t capitalize on this when, in all truthfulness, we were probably there for the taking. I can’t help but think a team like Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal certainly would have taken full advantage...  which perhaps only goes to highlight the gulf in class between us and them.

Still, Everton toiled... and, with a bit more luck in and around the box, we might have grabbed something I guess. Saha fizzed one wide late-on, but that was about it really. Both teams had been reduced to ten men by then.

First Bilyaletdinov was giving his marching orders for what appeared to be a two-footed lunge on Petrov. I couldn’t really see much from my position but most people seemed miffed it was even a free-kick let alone a red card. I’ve seen it since though and I reckon it was probably the correct decision.

Following this, in injury time, Carlos Cuellar was given his second yellow card for a challenge on Yakubu. At the time, I felt the referee had gotten a bit carried away and didn’t need to send him off; having seen this since also, he definitely didn’t as the Spaniard won the ball.

All-in-all, the draw was probably fair... though, once again, it’s a frustratingly poor goal which has cost us the game.

Next up: Benfica. A great chance to put right what went so wrong the other week in Lisbon, a win would practically qualify us for the knockout stages and would surely provide a huge boost to the squad going into some bloody tricky games over the next month or so. Domestic suspensions don’t count in Europe right? We could do with our Russian for Thursday.

Player Ratings:

  • Howard: Seemed to fumble a bit for the goal but dealt with everything else pretty comfortably. 6
  • Baines: Good to have him back. We’ve missed him in his absence. 7
  • Yobo: Good to have him back. We’ve missed him in his absence. 7
  • Distin: Plays much better alongside Yobo than Heitinga. 7
  • Neill: A bit indifferent. Probably didn’t get forward as much as he would have liked. 6
  • Heitinga: Got stuck in more than he has done previously and showed glimpses of what he can do. Still a bit naïve with his decision-making though. 6
  • Rodwell: Did alright. A bit better than he has been of late. Think he responded well to the confidence of a home crowd. 6
  • Fellaini: Rather anonymous throughout. 5
  • Bilyaletdinov: Played well. Growing into it more and more with each game… great then that he’ll now be missing for three, one of which is at Old Trafford. Well taken goal. 7
  • Cahill: Stuck at it admirably playing out of position. Led the team well. Surprised it was he and not Yobo to skipper the team… maybe there’s credence to the reported fall-out between Yobo and Moyes. 7
  • Yakubu: My Man of the Match. Looked more like the old Yak. I think if he gets a goal or two he’ll be flying. 7
  • Saha (for Fellaini): Didn’t really get into the game. 6
  • Jo (for Yakubu): Not on long, can’t judge.

Reader Comments

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Peter Bradshaw
1   Posted 02/11/2009 at 00:54:10

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Must have watched a slightly different match, but I suppose it is all about opinions.

Heitinga played his best match for us, read the game well mostly and passed the ball round, didn't give the ball away, kept Petrov quiet... I would have given him an 8.

Lucas Neill — Ashley Young got no change out of him and swapped wings on a number of occassions to see if he could get any change out of Baines; he couldn't, so started to come inside... again 8. Baines played well with Bily in front of him going forward and stifled Milner in the first half and Young when he swapped.

Cahill — can't remember him touching the ball in the first half, but did a lot of chasing, not playing in correct position and really a waste of time on the right: 6.

Fellaini — Moyes need to know what position he wants the lad to play, he was one step off the pace, ran into trouble, passing going astray and slow. Also when receiving a pass was like kicking a ball against a wall, no control; good decision to take him off: 5.

I was pleased with the commitment from the players to be honest as I was not expecting anything from the game because of how we are playing. Good subs from Moyes for Fellaini as he was ineffective.

We are starting to get players back now therefore Moyes needs to sort Fellaini’s position, is he here to take over from Cahill or play alongside Arteta? Patience is starting to run thin and Cahill’s game has gone while Fellaini is in the team.

Looking forward to the next few games, I think we will get something out of West Ham... ManUre, well you never know, I was there when we beat them 3-0 with Mo Johnson and Bob the Pole scoring... also the 5-0 at Goodison when I was in the Boys Pen, sitting next to lads with Ford jackets on, ahhhh those were the days.

Peter Bourke
2   Posted 02/11/2009 at 08:16:20

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@Peter Bradshaw....Cant remember Timmy touching the ball in the first half???? Well you must have missed our goal and been asleep the first half because he set up the goal and was in the thick of it both halves.
Cahills game is as good as anyone elses in the team at the moment.
Peter Roberts
3   Posted 02/11/2009 at 08:58:08

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Paul

Agree with you on both stances re: Bily’s red card. Yes, he gets the ball and therefore it shouldn’t be a freekick, but he goes in with both feet which sadly in today’s game normally results in a red card. Harsh but true.

From the brief highlights I saw on MOTD we looked the better side as the returning players to our backline gave it a more regular feel. Crap defending for their goal, though. I’ll chalk that one up to rustiness.
Peter Bradshaw
4   Posted 03/11/2009 at 00:30:19

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@ Peter Bourke, I knew I would get a bite at the Cahill comment, and I must admit I am still a big fan but if you watch the game again his contribution is low while not playing in his natural role behind the striker.

Yes I remember the goal and his contribution there but most of the time against Villa Timmy was on the floor with his arms up looking for a foul from a ref who gave us nothing.

We need to play Tim were he is at his best behind the striker or the second striker, therefore again the point I was making where do we play Fellaini?

But being honest would you give him anymore or any less than a 6, a very average game by his standards
Christopher Arellano
5   Posted 03/11/2009 at 15:38:32

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I always like Paul’s reports, thanks very much.

But I find myself liking the stuff about who is going to drive, the pub talk, forgetting to tell the other mate they’re at the pub just as much.

Good stuff. Pleasure to read.

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