What a game. What an awful game served up to us by Villa and Reading and not forgetting the referee and his assistant, one of whom was simply shocking.
It was a game where it was hard to pin point a man of the match for the home side as all of them showed flashes of brilliance and errors bordering on stupidity.
The game was played by two teams not wanting to make that blunder that would cost them the game; however judging by the amount of crosses that passed through the crowded defences it seems that these sides were not tight ships.
Guzan did most of his job well, his only errors were a lack of communication with Clark and a ill judged throw to Bannan, so he may win by default, despite making about one or two tricky saves.
Lowton made his usual compliment of rookie mistakes, but did enough to convince that he is on pace to become a decent enough premiership player.
Stevens was doing very well, but sadly had to leave the game early after suffering a leg injury. Lichaj came in and did another solid, yet unspectacular. His crossing early on was very poor, and he didn’t seem to venture forward too much in the second half.
Clarke and Baker both had their moments, but Clarke’s inexperience seemed to make Reading’s Roberts seem like he was Shearer. Baker kept getting the ball tangled up in his legs and looked like a player who hadn’t played in over a month.
Westwood is a tidy player with a good future, but I had to watch the kid that got the 91% pass rating and will hazard a guess that that rating will drop no less than 10% in tomorrow’s stat sheet. If you take away the really simple passes, the ones you and I could complete, that stat will probably cut to 20%.
Bannan was actually pushed 5 yards across the field by an opponent. The lad, unfortunately has the physical strength of a Chihauhua, but lacks the dog’s tenacity. He has quite a pass on him, but it was sorely missing. His redeeming quality is his corners and the only reason he could have stayed on the field when Holman and Weimann were removed.
Holman was a candidate for man of match, but it doesn’t seem right as he missed the final 3rd of the game. He didn’t do much, but he didn’t do much wrong and his workrate is beyond question.
Weimann looked like the only player likely to score, so I was disappointed, but understood his substitution. He made some minor errors too, but forwards mistakes rarely show up as glaringly as defenders.
Agbonlahor works really hard, but he does next to nothing with it all. Gabby for England? Someone’s having a laugh.
Benteke showed some lovely touches, flicks and shielding ability, but too many flicks were badly timed and he looked like he was trying for the softest goal awards until he finally powered a header into the ground to see it bounce beautifully into the Holte end goal.
Ireland had some nice passes and the side got livelier with him out there, on the other hand, misplaced passes almost gave Reading an in twice.
Albrighton might as well not have come on. It might be time to get a new go to sub like Carruthers or Johnson. His cross after Ireland’s super breakout pass was a real momentum killer.
Despite leaving Villa Park empty handed, Reading played a decent game. While Villa owned possession and shooting stats, Reading actually looked more of a premiership side out there with some decent moves. However, once Villa scored Reading threw players forward showing just how closed their game had been up til that point.
So Villa had to use a set piece to unlock a stubborn defence. Something they didn’t do once last season.
However, we’ve resorted to lumping high balls to Benteke even when Reading decided to double team him early in the second half.
Must mention the ref. Probably the sloppiest looking ref I’ve ever seen; and one of the more inconsistent. He allowed the players to almost strangle one another one minute and call it the next. He missed a sure edge of the area free kick on Stevens early on and failed to award a sure penalty on the Reading defender 30 minutes later. His assistant at the Witton messed up 2 offside calls that could have been costly on Villa and awarded phantom free kicks against Roberts.
So it was a game of mistakes, but the biggest screw up in my mind was the Reading manager who decided the dirty work had been done and withdrew the menacing Roberts, for a gritty smaller player. That was just one less height presence Benteke had to deal with as he headed home the game winner.