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Match Report


Posted Wed 20 Jan 10 at 22:48 PM

Report: Aston Villa 6 Rovers 4

Rovers' Wembley dream may have died but they certainly put up one hell of a battle at Villa Park on Wednesday evening.

In a game of high drama, Rovers put memories of their 1-0 loss at Ewood in the 1st leg firmly behind them when they raced into a two goal lead courtesy of a brace from Niko Kalinić.

But Stephen Warnock drew the tie level on aggregate in contentious circumstances before Chris Samba saw red for bringing down Gabriel Agbonlahor and James Milner scored from the spot.

Three goals in nine second half minutes gave Rovers a mountain to climb, but to their credit they never gave up. Stunning strikes from Martin Olsson and Brett Emerton reduced the arrears to 5-4, with the home side and fans decidedly nervous.

But the battle proved to be one that was just too far for Rovers and when Ashley Young raced clear to score the tenth goal of the game it was all over for Allardyce's side.

Watch the match highlights on Rovers Player

Ahead of the game Sam Allardyce made just the two changes from the side that defeated Fulham 2-0 at the weekend. David Dun and Morten Gamst Pedersen preferred to Benni McCarthy and Steven Reid.

But whilst the line-up was familar the formation wasn't, with Allardyce going for a 4-3-3 formation, Niko Kalinić up top, assisted by Olsson on the left and Dunn on the right, with Pedersen, Emerton and Nzonzi in the centre.

For the home side, they chose the same starting eleven that defeated Rovers 1-0 in the first leg at Ewood six days ago.

Ahead of the game there had been much debate as to how Rovers, trailing by one goal, would approach the game, but after the opening exchanges there was to be no doubt.

David Dunn had served notice just six minutes in when he saw his shot deflected narrowly wide off the back of James Collins and from the resulting corner kick Brad Guzan struggled to keep Morten Gamst Pedersen's inswinger away from the danger area.

Four minutes later and it would be from a corner kick that Rovers would take the lead. David Dunn sending over a ball from the left where Niko Kalinić headed home from close range.

Rovers were in command, Brett Emerton saw an effort blocked after Dunn couldn't make progress, then Kalinić also saw his effort blocked after good work from Olsson and Dunn.

Their reward of a second goal arrived on 26 minutes courtesy of a flowing move. David Dunn sending the ball from right to left for Kalinić who cleverly flicked it onto Pedersen. His cross from the left found Martin Olsson who saw his header stopped by a superb one-handed save from Guzan, but the Croatian Kalinić, so unfortunate in the 1st leg striking the woodwork on two occasions, was on hand to fire home for his fifth goal of the season with supreme calmness.

That second goal put Rovers in front on aggregate, but just four minutes later the home side pulled back a contentious goal. Ashley Young sending over a cross from the right that found its way to Stephen Warnock to score his first goal for Villa at the back post. Had referee Martin Atkinson spotted Gabriel Agbonlahor's blatant push on Ryan Nelsen the goal wouldn't have been given.

Five minutes before the break it got a whole lot worse for Rovers and it was yet another decision that would be debated.

A ball over the top saw an offside looking Agbonlahor race clear, Chris Samba did his best to make the tackle with a last ditch lunge, but he missed the ball, over went the Villa striker and the inevitable penalty and red card followed.

Amazingly Rovers have had three players sent off this campaign, all three coming in games against Aston Villa.

James Milner took the penalty and despite Paul Robinson diving the right way, the ball had the required pace on it to beat the Rovers goalkeeper.

With a man light it was always going to be an uphill struggle for Rovers in the second half, but to concede three goals in the space of nine minutes made it more than a mountain.

The first of Villa's quick fire treble came on 53 minutes when a Stewart Downing corner kick was forced home from close-range in a goalmouth scramble. Four minutes later James Milner saw his shot from the edge of the box deflect of Gabriel Agbonlahor and past Robinson.

Just past the hour mark and the tie was done and dusted as Milner found Heskey who beat the offside trap to round Robinson and make the scoreline 5-2 on the night and 6-2 on aggregate.

"We're gonna win 6-5" chanted the Rovers faithful, and to their credit Rovers never let their heads drop.

Just a minute after Heskey's goal Rovers were adding another to their own tally with the goal of the night.

Gael Givet popped up on the left flank to centre to Martin Olsson who scored his first goal of the season with a spectacular overhead kick.

Paul Robinson then stopped Heskey from grabbing a further goal with a stupendous one-handed save, whilst at the other end substitute Benni McCarthy lashed narrowly wide, it was a great opportunity.

But Rovers still pressed, and with the Villa defence still looking jittery despite their healthy advantage, the ninth goal of the game arrived.

Morten Gamst Pedersen sent over a corner from the right that Brett Emerton hooked back into the area with possibly Emile Heskey getting the last touch as the ball crept over the line.

As if to show just how much Rovers had troubled the home side huge groans echoed around the ground as the fourth official showed there would be four additional minutes to be played, but with Rovers well upfield a tenth goal on the night was added as Ashley Young raced away to score.

The final whistle indicated the Wembley dream was over for Rovers. The players would have loved to have gone over to applaud the visiting supporters who gave the side great backing, but there were unsavoury scenes at then end as the home supporters invaded the Villa Park turf.

So it is back to the bread and butter of the Premier League next Wednesday at home to Wigan, after the display against Aston Villa, they can go into the game with huge confidence.

ASTON VILLA: Guzan, Cuellar, Dunne, Collins, Warnock, A. Young, Milner, Petrov (c), Downing (sub Sidwell 87 mins), Heskey, Agbonlahor.

Subs not used: Friedel (GK), L. Young, Albrighton, Delfouneso, Delph, Beye.

ROVERS: Robinson, Chimbonda, Samba, Nelsen (c), Givet, Emerton, Nzonzi (sub Reid 61 mins), Pedersen, Olsson, Dunn (sub McCarthy 55 mins), Kalinić (sub Di Santo 73 mins).

Subs not used: Brown (GK), Andrews, Hoilett, Salgado.

Booked: Milner, Heskey (Aston Villa), Givet (Rovers)

Off: Samba (Rovers).

Attendance: 40,406

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