Gallant Guzan

Last updated : 07 November 2008 By Tom Vickers
Martin O'Neill's calculated risk paid off in Prague.
The Northern Irish boss made six changes to the side that lost 2-0 to Newcastle on Monday, with Gareth Barry and captain Martin Laursen among those dropping to the bench.
With Villa facing a potentially tricky home clash against MSK Zilina and a trip to German giants Hamburg, at least a point was a necessity in Prague.
Fans may have been anxious when they saw the starting line up but Villa showed just how strong their squad is.
Steve Sidwell, Moustapha Salifou and in particular the flawless Brad Guzan really shone as John Carew's goal gave Villa victory.
The Claret and Blue struggled in the second half but it wasn't the replacement players who let the side down.
First team regulars Ashley Young and Carew really struggled to get into the game after the break and at times it looked as if they believed they were too big for the occasion.


Guzan was forced into action as Slavia pressed after half time and Villa's strikers failed to hold the ball up.
The away side were really holding on after missing a string of good chances during the first 45 minutes.
Carew, who looked like he had bricks tied to his feet at times, was particularly guilty of not putting the effort in.
The Villa goal epitomised the Norwegian's performance as the Steve Sidwell's drive hit him and ricocheted past the despairing Slavia keeper.
Ashley Young then hit the post with a dangerous free kick and Carew then shot straight at the keeper after Young pulled the ball back.
Villa's first half performance was a joy to behold especially considering the fact that key players were missing.
Sidwell and Craig Gardner dominated the midfield and Curtis Davies looked very comfortable alongside Zat Knight.
Nicky Shorey was also impressive as he galloped down the left flank in support of Young. This was Shorey's best performance in a Villa shirt by far.


Slavia were forced to re-adjust after former Liverpool livewire Vladimir Smicer came off due to a calf injury after 40 minutes.
The change seemed to inspire the home side as they came out firing after the break but thankfully for Villa, Guzan was in fine form.
The American keeper will face a challenge trying to wrestle the number one jersey from compatriot Brad Friedel but based on this showing he has a chance.
Guzan epitomised the spirit of the so called 'second string' as they showed strength in the face of a raucous home crowd.
As pleasing as the three points were - Villa now top the group with six - it was the effort and ability shown by the back up players that was most encouraging.
Villa really do have a squad capable of competing on more than one front, which hasn't been the case for a long time.
Randy Lerner's investment is now really paying dividends.