It was a game of contradictions at Molineux this afternoon. There was some great football, some poor football. Great refereeing and poor refereeing. Great tactical moves and some not so great. In the end a superb strike by loanee Robbie Keane gave Villa a narrow and barely deserved 3-2 win.
The game started brilliantly as debutant Gardner headed inches wide. Wolves had a great chance that Given did very well, denying Fletcher who had no time to direct his shot.
Villa then won a penalty. Berra dallied over the ball allowing BENT in and the center back slashed the forwards legs from under him. The England striker coolly slotted the ball home from the spot. Minutes later Collins seemed to have caused the same foul, but contact was minimal and the ref said no foul.
All this was in the first 10 minutes. Wolves were starting to assert themselves. This was not the reserve team that was dispatched out of the cup by Blues in midweek, or even the 3rd stringers that the Villa reserves battered 7-1. Hammill , Milijas, Ebanks-Blake and out of form Doyle cannot be compared with Fletcher, Jarvis, Frimpong and Kightly. The latter 2 were giving Villa a torrid time. Kightly knew he had the beating of Clarke starting in place of Warnock at left back early on and his second run at Villa gave Wolves the goal. KIGHTLY cut inside Clarke and with Clarke left dead and no back up placed a nice shot past Given.
It was all Wolves now. Villa had resorted back to hoof ball and were just clearing the ball anywhere. Given had to make another awkward save from Edwards. Then a corner exposed Villa’s frailties from set pieces as Albrighton headed Henry’s shot off the line. Finally, Wolves grabbed the lead. Another corner headed by Roger Johnson was headed into the roof of the net by EDWARDS.
Wolves let off the gas, and Villa pushed forward. They began passing more and Gardner and Keane could use their footballing brains a little. Gardner had a scorching shot hit off Johnson and Keane came close too. At the back, Dunne was now covering Clarke as the youngster was in need of help.
Villa had looked so poor at the back that Alan Hutton was the best of the back 4.
McLeish swapped Warnock for Agbonlahor, moved Clarke into central midfield, put Gardner on the right midfield and charged Albrighton with the task of curbing distribution to Kightly. It worked a treat. Villa was able to control midfield with the extra man. Wolves were left one dimensional with everything now going through Jarvis on the right. The winger, however, still got a lot of crosses into the Villa area. But, it was Villa who started the brighter of the two in the second half.
Warnock was very lucky not to get a red card early in the second. He seemed to slide in for about 6 yards to win possession, but replays showed he actually jumped in.
Bent was unfortunate not to put Clarke through. The ball went back number 9, but his shot was straight at Hennessey another absentee from the midweek match. In the 51st minutes Villa got back on terms. Petrov hit a super crossfield ball to Bent. Bent laid it back to Gardner. His pass caught the arm of a Wolves defender and went down by the corner flag. Jarvis inexplicably hashed his clearance into the centre of the field. Clarke nodded it down to KEANE who shielded the ball and quickly unleashed a snap shot that caught Hennessey out.
Wolves responded quickly. They won a corner. From the corner Frimpong threw himself into the cross, but headed wide. Petrov’s foot caught his low head and the midfielder was taken to hospital with a head injury. He was replace by Milijas, who was a very poor replacement in terms of quality, for the Arsenal loanee.
The best move of the match for Villa was a give and go by Bent and Albrighton. Albrighton hit a lovely weighted pass for Bent. His side foot cross to Gardner was almost diverted into the net by Ward, but Hennessey stretched a foot out. A jinking run from Albrighton just cleared the bar.
The controversy really hit on 73 minutes. Albrighton tussled for a ball with Karl Henry. Henry prevented the winger from getting up and for good measure kicked the youngster in the ribs. Mr. Oliver had no choice but to issue his 1st card of the game, a red one. The Wolves fans labeled the England under 21 as the villain for the remainder of the game. But, deep down they have to know that Joey Barton is right when he said Henry is no more than a Sunday league player.
The card would end Wolves threat for this game and give Villa the initiative to get the winner. It may end Wolves’ stay in this division as the quality is severely lacking. With 6 minutes of regulation left Villa took that initiative. Bent found Hutton on the wing. His curling cross was cleared by Johnson only as far as KEANE. The Irish international steadied the ball with his left leg and unleashed a furious shot the rattled the underside of the bar and dropped in.
Villa just had to survive the 6 minutes and stoppage time. Curiously the ref only added 8 minutes. The injury to Frimpong took 5 minutes, the red card and Albrighton’ s treatment took 2 more plus 2 goals and 6 substitutions should have been at least 11 in my reckoning.
Albrighton should have released Petrov in the box in the closing stages, the attack lost momentum and Keane had one last shot a wicked effort that beat the keeper on his near post, but went slightly wide. On 93, Bent was mugged by Ward. It had to be a free kick and another red card, but the ref bottled that one.
For all their huff and puff and crosses from Jarvis Wolves were lacking up front and Given hadn’t had to make a save all second half. Dunne and Collins were now immense. Albrighton chipped another through ball sending substitute Weimann scurrying down the left channel, his pass was poor otherwise Bent could have grabbed his second. A minute later the Austrian screwed up again after great work with Bent he should have left the follow up ball for fellow substitute Bannan, instead slamming his off balance shot into the crowd.
In the end Villa got the spoils in a game that was way better than the dull anti-football these 2 sides served up at Villa Park earlier this season & we’ll thank Robbie Keane and Karl Henry for the 3 points.