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Match Report

 

Posted Sat 26 Feb 11 at 17:01 PM

Report: Aston Villa 4 Rovers 1

A second half capitulation by Rovers saw them lose heavily at Villa Park.

The first half saw Rovers defend stoutly with chances at both ends at a premium, but the second period saw them fully exposed.

The home side were gifted the lead when Keith Andrews brought down Ashley Young in the area. Young himself taking the penalty to give Villa a 48th minute lead.

Then two in the space of two minutes, an own goal from Grant Hanley and a fine solo goal from Stewart Downing, put Gerard Houllier's side firmly in command.

Substitute Nikola Kalinic reduced arrears for sixty seconds with a deflected shot that looped over Friedel, but Downing fed Young for him to lash home his second of the match from the very next attack.

To compound a miserable day Ryan Nelsen was sent off deep into injury time, as Villa go above Rovers in the league table.

Steve Kean made five changes to his Rovers side from the one that drew with Newcastle United last time out.

Chris Samba, David Dunn and Junior Hoilett were all ruled out through injury and illness, whilst Steven Nzonzi and Nikola Kalinic dropped to the bench.

Into the side came Grant Hanley to partner Ryan Nelsen at the back, whilst there was a return to the starting eleven for the first time since October for Vince Grella, he along with Brett Emerton, Morten Gamst Pedersen and Keith Andrews were all back to bolster the midfield in a 4-1-4-1 formation.

With the sides having met no fewer than nine times in the last two season's it was perhaps to be expected that this encounter would start in subdued fashion.

Early opportunities for Robert Pires and Darren Bent came and went for the home side, whilst Brad Friedel's goal wasn't troubled by efforts from Martin Olsson and Ryan Nelsen.

In fact it wasn't until the final period of the first half that the match finally showed some semblance of life.

That was in part to the intricate footwork of the veteran Pires, but also the wastefulness of Rovers' passing.

Following on from his early effort, Pires was picked out in far too much space on the edge of the box, Rovers relieved his 30th minute strike was off target.

Ten minutes later Paul Robinson would deny the former Arsenal man, beating away his shot across the bows.

Meanwhile the home side were forced into an early reshuffle. Nathan Baker, who was sent off when the two sides met in the FA Cup, had to be replaced on 35 minutes after being caught by Paul Robinson as he punched a centre clear. The young defender showing signs of concussion as he was helped down the tunnel. On in his place came Fabian Delph to operate at left back.

Villa threatened on four occasions in as many minutes as the half drew to an end, after denying Pires, Robinson then blocked a cross shot from Kyle Walker, Ashley Young pounced on the rebound but lifted his effort over the bar.

Robinson was quickly called upon to again deny Pires, and then did brilliantly to prevent Darren Bent from pouncing. Then in the final minute of two additional ones at the end of the half Morten Gamst Pedersen picked out Darren Bent, but Ryan Nelsen was quick to react to the danger.

Neither side changed personnel at the start of the second half, Rovers forcing a save from Brad Friedel 30 seconds after the resumption of play.

Jermaine Jones started and finished the move, firstly robbing Richard Dunne in possession on half way, Roque Santa Cruz took up the mantle and charged forward, finding Jones in advance, but from inside the area his left footed strike was saved by Friedel at the near post.

But any chance that Rovers would build on that early second half promise was quickly extinguished.

After Ryan Nelsen had superbly blocked Walker's centre, the ball fell to Keith Andrews in his own area, but after turning into trouble he was then caught in possession by Ashley Young and as the England man looked to move towards goal Andrews brought him down for a clear cut penalty.

Young took the honours himself, sending Paul Robinson the wrong way to give Villa the lead and Rovers what would turn out to be a long afternoon.

Buoyed by taking the lead the home side pressed for further goals, and eventually after a series of corner kicks, a second arrived, albeit in fortunate circumstances.

After an initial corner was cleared Marc Albrighton shot low through the crowded area, the ball deflecting off the shin of the unfortunate Grant Hanley and into the back of the net.

Manager Steve Kean had already planned on making a double substitution, in the aftermath of the home side's celebrations Niko Kalinic replaced Roque Santa Cruz and Jason Roberts replaced Vince Grella.

However any impact the duo could make was ended as quickly as they'd arrived. Ashley Young showing quick feet and good awareness to set Stewart Downing racing away towards goal and he made it 3-0 with a steered effort past Robinson into the far corner.

On 81 minutes Nikola Kalinic claimed his regulation goal at Villa Park as he always does, latching onto a cross field pass from Brett Emerton, the Croatian saw his strike deflect off Richard Dunne and loop into the back of the net over the stranded Friedel, but it was mere consolation as from their very next attack Villa swept forward to add a fourth, Ashley Young firing home his second of the afternoon after Downing's inch-perfect centre.

Kalinic was inches away from grabbing his second of the game, driving just wide of Friedel's left post. Emile Heskey was a similar distance away from making his mark at the other end.

The last act of the match was a second yellow card for Rovers captain Ryan Nelsen. It had been a troubling week for the New Zealander with events back home, but as Ashley Young raced away Nelsen couldn't make the tackle, Martin Atkinson produced the inevitable card to ensure the Rovers defender finished the match a minute earlier than the rest.

ASTON VILLA: Friedel, Dunne, Downing, Young (c), Pires (sub Petrov 76 mins), Albrighton, Reo-Coker, Clark, Baker (sub Delph 36 mins), Walker, Bent (sub Heskey 83 mins).

Subs not used: Marshall (GK), Agbonlahor, Bradley, Herd.

ROVERS: Robinson, Salgado, Hanley, Nelsen (c), Olsson, Emerton, Jones, Grella (sub Roberts 63 mins), Andrews (sub Nzonzi 79 mins), Pedersen, Santa Cruz (sub Kalinic 63 mins).

Subs not used: Bunn, Givet, Benjani, MB Diouf.

Booked: Jones, Grella, Nelsen (Rovers).

Off: Nelsen (Rovers).

Attendance: 34,309

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