Writer: Alex Humpage
Date:Tuesday September 23 2008
Sunday 22nd September; 12:00
32 First Half seconds, at the beginning and end of which West Brom conceded two goals, proved decisive as Aston Villa left the Hawthorns with all the points in the top-flight Midlands derby match.
The Baggies made one change to the side that saw off West Ham last weekend; the fit Gianni Zuiverloon resuming at right back in place of Hoefkens. There was meant to be another, but a recurrence of his calf injury in the warm-up meant that Meite was unable to displace Leon Barnett at centre-back. Albion started brightly against their oldest rivals, continuing the slick passing game that has earned them more plaudits than points at this early stage of the season. The five-man midfield dominated, with the effervescent James Morrison in particular making several rapier-like stabs into the Villa defence. Clear-cut chances were few though, but for the first 25 minutes the only threat to the Albion game came courtesy of an Ashley Young free-kick, which John Carew, unmarked, headed past the left post.
The warning sign was not heeded, and on the 27th minute another free kick from an almost identical position was lofted into the Albion box by Ashley Young. Carew could barely believe his luck as Leon Barnett marked wrong side and quite AWOL, and he glanced a header in off the left post, giving Carson no chance. The Baggies were clearly reeling, and after conceding possession from a throw-in inside the Villa half seconds after kicking-off, Ashley Young pinged a hopeful ball 40 yards up the pitch which Leon Barnett used to exhibit the most ill-advised piece of ball juggling you`ll ever see. The net result was Agbonlahor racing onto the free ball, squeezing a shot through Olssen`s legs and the Baggies were two goals down in barely half a minute.
The second goal galvanised the Albion, and they cut the deficit almost as quickly as they conceded the second. An advancing Koren played a one-two with Bednar, before stinging a shot that Friedel should have held - he didn`t, and James Morrison raced in to finish under pressure from Luke Young (34). We continued brightly, and Kim was only denied a 43rd minute equaliser when his close range header was excellently saved by Friedel`s firm hand, atoning for his previous error.
The second half started at a frenetic pace, with Zuiverloon belting a rising shot that didn`t go over by much, and Villa rattling the woodwork twice, one of which looked to be Carew`s second all the way. However the teams couldn`t maintain the tempo, and after Mowbray thrust on the young English strike duo of Moore and Miller, the one less man in the middle meant the Baggies supply route was stymied, and the Villa held on with relative ease for the last half hour to finish triumphant.
This isn`t the first time this season we`ve played good football, only to come away with defeat. Two major defensive lapses are the obvious reasons, with Barnett in particular struggling under scrutiny. Villa, who have spent close to £50 million, do look like a top class side, and there is no shame in losing to them. Several good performers included Carson, who couldn`t do anything about the goals, Zuiverloon, who kept Ashley Young relatively in his pocket, and Bednar ,who again played the solitary striker role well, and can be sympathised with for his early withdrawal. Brunt never had a chance to make an impact, and was replaced by Kim after 20 minutes. We also showed that when switching to a 4-4-2 we perhaps lack the numbers across the middle to make the chances we need - a tough dilemma for Mowbray.
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Date:Tuesday September 23 2008
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