Aston Villa v Cardiff – 09/11/13 Result 2-0

The Dolphin's Brain By The Dolphin's Brain, 10th Nov 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/jswvg2h3/
Posted in Wikinut>News>Sport

Having played six out of the current top seven in the first ten games of the season, Aston Villa began a run of more ‘winnable’ fixtures with the visit of Cardiff on Saturday. Read a match report here and get a full flavour of the game from the stands.

Finding The Back Of The Net

Pundits, professional and amateur alike, are fond of statistics. The one doing the rounds prior to this game at Villa Park was that Villa had not scored a Premier League goal in a zillion hours of football, or somewhere near that! In fact, the last league goal was Andi Weimann’s winner against Manchester City on 28th September, a goal consisting of two touches from the Villa team, including the keeper’s clearance. Since that game, Villa have had two goalless away draws at Hull and West Ham and two home defeats by Spurs and Everton, 2-0 each time.

Shorn of two of the usual front three for the visit of the Bluebirds, the concern for home fans was that, despite bottom-half opposition, that run would continue. The first hour of the game contained little to fully dispel that concern, although Villa did mount a series of attacks and created chances.

Setting The Scene

Paul Lambert has an apparent preference for playing 4-3-3 or, occasionally, 3-5-2, but the players missing due to injury or illness meant he had little choice but to resort to 4-4-2 for this match. Guzan, as usual, was in goal behind a back-four consisting of Bacuna, Vlaar, Baker and Clark. In the absence of Fabian Delph, Villa’s most consistent performer of the season so far, Lambert gave a starting place to Tonev in a midfield four completed by Westwood, El Ahmadi and Sylla, who filled the left-sided role in the first half. Kozak was preferred as the second striker alongside Benteke with Helenius and Bowery on the bench.

Cardiff, coming off a last-gasp win in the south-Wales derby, made only one change to the eleven who started that game, replacing Jordan Much with Gunnarsson. Peter Whittingham returned to his old stomping ground.

Sparring

Villa began on the front foot and in the opening minutes Kozak had a close-range header from an excellent cross by Clark well-saved by Marshall in the Cardiff goal low down to his right; the keeper wasn’t to know that the Villa striker had strayed offside. Shortly after, Kozak won a header from a Guzan clearance, Benteke gathered the ball in and laid it off to El Ahmadi who strode forward and struck a powerful shot which was on target if a little too close to the keeper. Stephen Caulker managed to clear in front of an onrushing Benteke after Marshall had only parried the shot straight back towards the penalty spot. If not for the defender’s intervention it may well have been the opening goal of the game.

Marshall was in action again a few moments later. Sylla picked up the ball in midfield and played a cute pass to Tonev who fed Benteke on the edge of Cardiff’s penalty box. The striker’s strength enabled him to shrug off the attentions of several defenders and lay the ball back towards Sylla. He, too, showed strength in the challenge and he fashioned himself a shooting opportunity. This time, however, the strike was weak and Marshall had little difficulty in gathering the ball in.

The opening exchanges also saw an opportunity for Cardiff. Caulker roamed forward and was allowed to make too much progress without challenge. The ball was dinked into the Villa box but no Cardiff striker managed to get a shot in as first Gunnarsson and then Odemwingie took air shots. Guzan in the Villa goal was not troubled, a pattern that continued for most of the match.

Combative play from Tonev in midfield resulted in a free-kick to the visitors just inside the Villa half. This brought Cardiff’s ‘big men’ forward and the ball was directed towards Villa’s six-yard area. Kozak put his head on the ball, narrowly missing the goal with his clearing header with Guzan wrong-footed. It was a scare for the home side but also the nearest Cardiff came to a goal in the whole match.

The subsequent corner was easily cleared by Clark up to half-way and Villa won possession from the resulting Cardiff throw-in. Westwood, who put in a better performance in this game, played an excellent ball to Benteke who manoeuvred the ball cleverly onto his right foot. His powerful shot from just outside the box was heading for the corner and Marshall had to make another smart save, again down low to his right. Benteke rose above the Cardiff defence to meet the corner but was unable to direct his header on goal.

Towards Half Time

As the first half progressed, El Ahmadi had another long-range effort, this time off-target; Tonev closed down Medel in the Cardiff half and won the ball but went on to balloon a shot from 25 yards over the bar when slipping in Benteke on the left of the penalty spot was the much better option. Tonev was busy and made many thrusting runs down Villa’s left but put three successive crosses straight into the hands of Marshall, although one could argue that the front two were poor at getting across the front of the Cardiff defence.

If Villa’s attacking was intermittent and in need of greater thrust and precision, Cardiff’s was tepid, to say the least. Villa’s approach to the game was to press the visitors at every opportunity and Cardiff were hesitant and wasteful in attack. Marshall was much the busier of the keepers as Villa’s new-found defensive solidity, albeit with the odd panic, left Guzan with no saves to make in the first half. Despite the home team’s clear superiority, the half-time whistle brought boos from the more impatient of the Villa fans.

Dead-Ball Magic

Early in the second half Marshall saved diving to his left to push away a downward header from Kozak who had used his strength well to rise in the box to meet an excellent left-foot cross from Bacuna. Villa pressed well and maintained pressure on the Cardiff defensive third but little came of it initially. Tonev’s determination again saw him first to a long cross-field pass but his cross saw Kozak again anticipate poorly leaving Marshall free to tidy up.

Benteke had a couple of half-chances around the hour mark but couldn’t hit the target with his headers, whilst Cardiff had a little more success in the attacking third without really threatening.

Nearly every game has a turning point and this one’s occurred on 74 minutes when Lowton replaced El Ahmadi, pushing Bacuna forward into midfield. The effect was almost instantaneous as a fine piece of one-touch football set the Dutchman free to drive towards the Cardiff penalty area. Medel pulled him back cynically, earning himself a yellow card and giving Villa a free-kick.

The home fans’ anticipation rose as Bacuna set himself to strike the ball, memories of his goal against Manchester City being recalled. The free-kick was all of thirty yards out but Bacuna’s perfect technique allowed him to whip the ball over the wall and into the top right corner. Marshall never moved and Villa’s temporary goal drought was over.

Villa extended the lead eight minutes later when a Tonev cross was not cleared and Lowton, at the far post, headed the ball back into the mix where Kozak rose and placed his header into the corner leaving Marshall no chance.

There was still time for Jordan Bowery, having been put in by Benteke, to smash an effort into the side netting, when he should have gone across the keeper and for Clark to receive a yellow card for a rash challenge in the left-back position. The resulting free-kick was flashed over the bar by Whittingham and was the last action of the match.

The Next Steps

Malky McKay’s public post-match words were to the effect that he thought Cardiff would be OK if the team could repeat this performance level in the rest of the season’s away games. Managers, of course, are obliged to put a positive slant on their words to the media, not least for the benefit of players and fans. However, if he believes his own words he is sadly mistaken. Cardiff’s attacking play was limited and ineffective. There was little penetration and whilst the BBC statistics show two shots on target I’m not sure that is accurate as I do not recall a single save by Guzan in the whole ninety minutes. Cardiff’s next two games are at home to Arsenal and Manchester United and they still have to travel away this season to Liverpool, Everton, Arsenal, Spurs, Swansea, Southampton and the two Manchester clubs. A similar performance to that at Villa Park in those away games will result in eight defeats.

Aston Villa are still not firing as well as the fans would like or Lambert would expect, but with the number of injuries in the squad (leading to two academy players being on the bench for this game) the performance and result are positive. Tonev showed good attacking intent, albeit with some poor outcomes and Bacuna continues to impress. The last fifteen minutes might lead to Lambert considering playing both Lowton and Bacuna in future games as the team would benefit from the extra drive forward this would bring, especially at home. Many fans would welcome such a move but it is difficult to see how both could play if Lambert reverts to 4-3-3.

All text and images © The Dolphin’s Brain 2013 except where indicated otherwise

Tags

Aston Villa, Bacuna, Benteke, Cardiff, Guzan, Kozak, Lambert, Lowton, Malky Mckay, Marshall, Medel, Premier League, Villa, Villa Park, Westwood, Whittingham

Meet the author

author avatar The Dolphin's Brain
I am a mixed bag of lawyer, vegan, environmentalist and sports nut and my writing is likely to be passionate, of-the-moment articles on a wide variety of topics. I also write the occasional poem!

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
12th Nov 2013 (#)

It looks liek teh Villains are heading for a good season, hope tehy can reach European positions

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