A home 1-1 draw with Manchester United. On the surface it seems like just another season without a home win versus the Red Devils since 1995, but the manner of the draw can make one so proud to be a Villan. Every player worked so hard and despite giving up about ¾ of possession United was kept to a surprisingly low number of chances.
Villa matched United’s now famous 3-5-2 formation with a similar 3-4-2-1 with the full backs playing wing back.
It was all United and Villa couldn’t get out of its own half. United worked hard to keep Villa pressed in its own final third. Villa actually looked more threatening when it hoofed the ball as Benteke was winning just about everything.
Villa gave United a stern warning when Benteke just missed Weimann with a lob that would have had the Austrian through one on one. A couple of minutes later Villa went ahead. Delph’s free kick found BENTEKE on the far side of the box. After initially losing the ball it fell back to him and he patiently made some space before curling a beautiful shot inside the post, screening the keeper as he had in his last goal against Palace.
Villa went on the back foot again, the only real chance came when Gabby broke clear with Benteke and Weimann ahead he over ran the ball and the danger ended. In the 36th minute Villa finally had a spell of ball possession that lasted about 3 minutes which actually included a couple of hoofs downfield as the ball was passed around the entire field except United’s last third. The only thing that disappointed the 41,000 crowd was that Cissokho failed to try to cross the ball. Not that any of his crosses were any good.
Villa started the second half well and Benteke again came close with a header from another decent dead ball delivery from Delph that De Gea saved brilliantly. United went back on the attack and Guzan was finally being tested more than the one save in the first half and eventually the equalizer came. Ashley Young, being booed with every touch brushed by Lowton way too easily as he had all game and his cross was finally decent meeting FALCAO who just had to direct his header goal-wards.
Villa saw red for the third time this season after no sending-offs last season and for the second time it was completely unjust. Agbonlahor won the ball and ran away from his opponent the ball got away from him and both he and Young went for the ball which was 50-50. Gabby appeared to just run at Young and the two collided. Young went down like he’d been shot and that was enough to get referee Lee Mason to rashly pull out a red card, the first card of the game.
Replays showed Gabby actually slowing down as he got to the ball and one angle showed Gabby getting to the ball first and Young jumping a little high, whilst another angle appears to show Young getting there first and Gabby’s leg banging Young’s.
Either way it was not a foul by either player although Young came slightly over the top out of the two.
There was angst about Villa and the players raised their games actually dealing with the extra space on the field better than United and passing better than they had all game.
A much worse foul was committed by United sub Blackett on Lowton and a red card had to come out surely? But, it was yellow and one for good measure for Guzan who hopefully asked Mason how much United were paying him?
United always looked dangerous, especially Young who was now being taunted at every opportunity by the home crowd, unfairly in my own opinion, but Vlaar, Clark and most especially man of the match Okore were always too good and if they weren’t Guzan was always there.
Bacuna and N’Zogbia came on for Weimann and Cissokho and both did tremendously well. Bacuna was unlucky not to see his shot go in for a spectacular win. In the end a 1-1 draw was a great point for Villa and now the next battle will be to get Gabby’s card overturned to at least a yellow.
Congrats to Lambert for a well thought out game. He got the tactics right and his subs worked even though the popular call was for Grealish to be unleashed. Lambert will have to ask himself why, regardless of the players raising their games after a red card, did Villa not seem to miss Gabby one iota and does his occasional decent game warrant a regular place in the first team?