Gabriel Agbonlahor was a shining star in an otherwise choppy disjointed display by Villa, at Villa Park today.
The visitors Wigan came out showing their usual quick ball to foot movement, but even their passing was oddly disjointed and sloppy at times.
Throughout the first half the teams spent time giving up possession to one another, without creating much. Bannan did find Bent with delightful chip, the striker should have buried, even that came after the Scot had given the ball away and got it right back.
Wigan’s Di Santo saw a shot deflect just wide, with Given scrambling.
Finally Villa did break through. A superb pass from Bannan found AGBONLAHOR his first touch was just right & he was able to use his strength to keep the defender off, cut back and hit a stunning strike into the top of the goal.
This should have buoyed Villa, but they went right back to sloppy passing with Delph, Hutton and Ireland being the main culprits, but by no means the only culprits. It was this sloppy passing that cut short an attack, when Delph gave the ball away with a no look pass. Collins managed to break his neck to get back to make Di Santo’s angle to wide and his shot missed the far post.
Hutton, gave Ireland a poor pass before the half and the Irish midfielder hurt himself trying to tackle McCarthy to get the ball back.
Wigan came at Villa in the second and the game opened up a little with both sides creating chances early on. Gabby beat two players and swung a hard low drive that swung in and just missed the far post.
Bannan must have thought he’d got his second goal in as many weeks, but Al Habsi got across his goal to turn the ball over his bar. Moments earlier the charmed Alan Hutton got lucky a third time as he appeared to bundle Di Santo over in the box. Heskey had also come on before those incidents, for the injured Ireland, who will be ruing two first half chances as he struggles with his form.
Gabby hit a cross, that illustrated his self belief right now as it bent in toward goal causing Al Habsi to stretch back and palm the ball to safety with help from the bar.
Suddenly Villa grabbed a 2nd goal. Agbonlahor received a pass after sloppy play by Wigan’s midfield. Gabby then turned away from his man and over played and lost the ball; hard work and sheer strength allowed him to regain possession and he turned away running at the out of position midfielder Boyce. Gabby’s pace was way too good for Boyce; he was able to push the ball ahead, look up check where he wanted to get the ball, hit a Bannanesque flighted ball that Gordon Cowans would have been proud of that landed perfectly at the foot of BENT who won’t have an easier side foot half volley this season.
Villa was starting to get some swagger. Petrov saw a shot swerve and dip just under the crossbar that Al Habsi had to work hard to palm away.
Wigan sent on former Villan Shawn Maloney to a warm welcome from the Villa fans. His impact was immediate as he forced Given into action, blocking his shot and Di Santo’s strange rebound choice.
Heskey was just getting into the game and McLeish gambled a little by breaking up the suddenly working Bent/Gabby partnership that was looking dangerous and try to give N’Zogbia a run out. It was now all Wigan and Villa couldn’t get out of its own half let alone get him the ball. Wigan almost put a corner straight in, but Bannan cleared.
With 5 minutes left Weimann came on for Gabby to allow the Erdington hero a standing ovation as he left the field. Weimman’s first minute saw N’Zogbia’s first touch which caused ironic cheers from the crowd. His only touch in 15 minutes of work. He drove at two defenders, chipped the ball toward the Austrian substitute, but the ball bounced out for a goal kick.
Wigan forced 2 or 3 saves from Given in the late stages, but fairly routine, the same can be said for Weimann’s half chance.
In the end a satisfactory result, but one has the feeling this will be the last game unbeaten, unless the passes become quicker, more accurate and corners and crosses start beating the first man. The 30,000 crowd was pretty decent. It did look like McLeish has some followers. Some Oompa loompa’s traded in their blue and white scarves to follow the only manager to win them a cup at Wembley. They seemed to enjoy themselves.