Aston Villa improvement finally gives rise to optimism
Villa secured back-to-back home league wins in the same season for the first time since August 2010 (a run of 69 matches) with their superb 1-0 defeat of league leaders Chelsea on Saturday. Here’s a look at the Good, Bad and Ugly from that excellent victory.
It was a magnificent performance from Villa, whose young defence were superbly marshalled again by Ron Vlaar. Joe Bennett put in one of his best performances as a Villa player when he was called upon to replace the ineligible Ryan Bertrand at left-back, and Leandro Bacuna, although left for dead by Eden Hazard in the build-up to Nemanja Matic’s disallowed goal, looks to be improving defensively.
Chelsea were afforded just two shots on target, and that includes Matic’s goal that was ruled out. According to WhoScored, Villa won 26 tackles to Chelsea’s eight, a statistic that says much of what Villa’s performance was about.
Christian Benteke came close on a couple of occasions, and particularly his acrobatic volleyed effort from the edge of the area in the first half seemed to show how his confidence has been boosted by his superb two-goal display last time out.
Fabian Delph stepped up his game again, particularly in the second half, and took the game to Chelsea. It was one of the surging runs which are becoming his trademark this season which brought Willian’s second yellow card – harsh though it might have been, we refer Mourinho & co. to Stamford Bridge in the opening week of the season. Tough it out Jose, you’re special, remember?
As for the goal, what can be said that hasn’t been said already? Delph nipped in so quickly to win the ball ahead of Ivanovic, embarrasses Matic before charging forwards, times the pass to the unmarked Albrighton on the left perfectly, before keeping himself in space in the penalty area for the return.
The finish? As every Villa fan will probably have already exclaimed, if it were a big-name world-class player who had scored it, we’d be seeing replays of it every week for the rest of the season. As it is, it’ll be a goal forgotten by all except Villa fans (and Chelsea fans I suppose, but they’re probably still accidentally posting abuse on Sir Chris Hoy’s Twitter timeline) by next weekend.
It says so much about Delph’s attitude and quality this season that he was unwilling to settle for an 82nd-minute winner, helping to push Chelsea back again and finding space minutes after scoring, only to see his shot loop up off Gary Cahill and on to the crossbar.
Mourinho, as focused on by many in the media since Saturday, is still yet to win at Villa Park, with his Chelsea sides having scored only once in five visits. For all the Portuguese manager’s mind games, moaning and petty squabbling, he is yet to experience any joy on his travels to Villa and that is a wonderful thing.
One thing that infuriates me is that to the Jose Mourinho fan club that is the British national media, “Aston Villa 1 – 0 Chelsea” is tantamount to “referee costs unlucky Chelsea” or “Mourinho furious with decisions”. Villa deserve enormous credit for their victory, but it just has to be accepted that they won’t get enough of it.
Meanwhile, Mourinho’s feeling of injustice has already been reported time and time again, as if that’s the key point from all of this.The fact of the matter is that Villa were better than Chelsea, and although I probably would have been unhappy with certain decisions if I were a Chelsea fan, it would be nothing compared to how I felt after the Stamford Bridge defeat. Swings and roundabouts, Jose.
I prefer to think that Ramires’ challenge on Karim El Ahmadi was one of frustration rather than maliciousness, but it was still absolutely unacceptable. If the angle of KEA’s leg had been even slightly different then he would have been done for the season, unquestionably.
Mourinho’s assertion that the referee was to blame for the challenge as his poor decisions had frustrated Chelsea’s player was just scandalous. I get frustrated sometimes, but I don’t launch a flying stamp at another man’s leg. After incidents like that the only decent thing to do is to condemn the tackle, but that’s just not Jose’s style.
I would argue that the only realistically unwinnable game Villa have left this season is the rearranged trip to Manchester City on 7 May. Stoke at home next Sunday is a glorious opportunity for Villa to record three consecutive home league wins, and the trip to Manchester United the following Saturday should be the cause of no fear whatsoever for Villa, who have a great chance to finish as high as they can if they can, as they should, record a substantial points total from the final nine games of the season. Villa have had great wins before, but this time they must build on it. UTV
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