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Match Report


Posted Sat 29 Jan 11 at 14:51 PM

Report: Aston Villa 3 Rovers 1

Aston Villa continue to be the thorn in Rovers' side after Steve Kean's team were knocked out of the FA Cup.

For the fourth time in two seasons the side from Birmingham would end Rovers' cup participation, the fourth round match at Villa Park ending 3-1.

The first half was a lively affair, Villa taking the lead on 11 minutes when Ciaran Clark rose to head home Barry Bannan's corner.

Rovers hit back quickly when Michel Salgado teed up early substitute Niko Kalinic, but their inability to stop crosses saw Robert Pires and Nathan Delfouneso give the home side a 3-1 lead despite Rovers hitting the woodwork twice through Kalinic and Martin Olsson.

The second period didn't hit the heights of the first, especially after Nathan Baker saw red for a high, reckless, challenge on Junior Hoilett.

That saw Gerard Houllier's side retreat to hold onto what they had and although Rovers fashioned chances, their profligacy was their downfall as they exited the competition in disappointing fashion.

Rovers made four changes from the side that had defeated West Bromwich Albion six days earlier. Incoming were Grant Hanley, Steven Nzonzi, Keith Andrews and Jason Roberts, out saw Givet and Dunn drop out of the 18, Kalinic and Jermaine Jones onto the bench.

A low key reception saw Villa start with two early chances, Barry Bannan firing wide after a minute, before Grant Hanley blocked well after Emile Heskey found space on the edge of the area.

Rovers were playing their 4-4-2 diamond formation that served them well in the previous game, this time with Hoilett at the head of the midfield four and it was from his run that the visitors had their first chance.

The Canadian showed a good turn of speed to race through midfield, he picked out Michel Salgado on the overlap, the Spaniard finding Hoilett with a return ball but his header was blocked, Keith Andrews, making his first start of the season in a Rovers shirt, couldn't get his shot away but fed the attacking Salgado who fired into the side netting.

But on eleven minutes it was double disappointment for Steve Kean's Rovers. Firstly Roque Santa Cruz limped out to be replaced by Niko Kalinic as Villa prepared to take a corner kick. The Paraguayan pulling up after chasing a ball in a previous foray forward.

Rovers cleared the first corner from the left as Ciaran Clark saw his header nodded away, but from the incoming corner from the right Clark made no mistake this time to squeeze his header past Robinson and Salgado on the line.

The home side could have added a quickfire second as a Gabriel Agbonlahor centre picked out Nathan Delfouneso but he acrobatically volleyed over the bar.

That stung Rovers into life and inevitably Hoilett was at the heart of everything that was good from the visitors.

On 16 intricate passing saw Hoilett played into the penalty box and from a tight angle he stung the gloves of former Rover Brad Friedel.

Two minutes later, the diminutive attacker would start the move that would lead to Rovers levelling. Bringing the ball through midfield, showing his excellent close control and quick feet, Hoilett fed the free running Salgado and he got round the back of the Villa defence to hit a low ball into the six yard box for Niko Kalinic to tap home.

Friedel claimed the ball but both referee and assistant correctly ruled that the Croatian's shot had crossed the line. His fourth goal in cup competitions again Aston Villa.

You felt Rovers would build on gaining the upper hand, but it wasn't the case as the home side regrouped and eventually after a lull in the match, retook the lead.

Barry Bannan had already served notice when he skipped past Keith Andrews to shoot from distance, Paul Robinson watching the ball fly a couple of yards over his crossbar.

But on 35 minutes a goal from nothing saw the home side regain the lead. A ball in from the left was only half cleared on the edge of the area and it fell to Robert Pires who curled a lovely effort into the corner of the goal.

Like Villa's first goal Rovers looked to hit back immediately with four excellent chances in a matter of minutes.

Brad Friedel held well from a trademark Morten Gamst Pedersen free-kick on 37 minutes when any slip from the American would have seen Kalinic pounce.

Then as he bowled the ball out to Kyle Walker Kalinic forced him back to Cuellar who in turn played Friedel into trouble. He cleared as far as Jason Roberts, but only sharp defending from Clark stopped Roberts from teeing up Kalinic ten yards out and a simple tap-in.

The pressure continued from the resulting corner, from Pedersen's delivery a scrambled ensued and Niko Kalinic hooked the ball against the post. So unlucky for the Rovers striker.

As that ball was hooked behind Rovers would again threaten from a set play. Pedersen fired the ball over and this time Chris Samba rose to head goalwards but Friedel denied the Rovers captain with a smart reaction save.

But whilst Rovers were causing untold problems going forward, it was their inability to stop the crosses from the flanks that was their downfall and on 42 they paid the price once again.

This time it was Nathan Baker with the centre and Nathan Delfouneso headed home despite Paul Robinson's best efforts.

Rovers weren't finished and continued to look the better attacking side.

A minute before the break and the woodwork was rattled once more. Martin Olsson the unfortunate player this time when following Hoilett's neat lay-off the Swede slammed the ball goalwards past Friedel but unfortunately against the crossbar.

At half time with a scoreline of 3-1, the talk amongst the home fans was of another 6-4 cup classic, but the second half was nowhere near as entertaining as the first.

Villa made a change at the restart of the second half with Stewart Downing replacing Gabriel Agbonlahor as the home side started in the ascendency forcing a series of early corner kicks. A combination of Chris Samba and Grant Hanley making important clearances.

At the other end Rovers were struggling to get their fluid passing play going. Players left frustrated by under or overhit passes.

But on the hour mark another excellent chance for Rovers came and went. Keith Andrews fed Jason Roberts in the area who played it wide for Hoilett, the ball was sent across where a free Andrews put his header wide.

Two minutes later and Aston Villa were reduced to ten men when a stupidly high challenge from Nathan Baker on Junior Hoilett saw referee Lee Probert give the young full back a straight red card.

The home supporters weren't impressed but it was the correct decision, there was no need for Baker to be making such a challenge on the halfway line.

Gerard Houllier reacted by bringing on James Collins for Robert Pires to shore up the back line. Clark moving to the vacated left back spot.

Hoilett fired over from a promising position after Martin Olsson picked him out with a cross from the left. Then after a typically bustling run from Jason Roberts he delayed his pass onto Kalinic too long and Collins was able to clear. But they were rare second half chances.

As the game drifted to its inevitable confusion a disastrous pass from Pedersen saw Downing race away, Robinson saved well, not once but twice, from his former England colleague, Hanley blocked on the line, then Grella was in the right place to stop the follow-up.

On an afternoon of few positives Olsson and Hoilett were lively once again, whilst the return to action for Steven Nzonzi, Keith Andrews and Vince Grella gives them some much needed minutes in anticipation for the games ahead.

ASTON VILLA: Friedel, Pires (sub Collins 68 mins), Agbonlahor (sub Downing 46 mins), Delfouneso (sub Albrighton 72 mins), Heskey, Reo-Coker (c), Clark, Cuellar, Bannan, Baker, Walker.

Subs not used: Marshall (GK), Young, Delph. Petrov.

ROVERS: Robinson, Salgado, Samba (c), Hanley, Olsson, Hoilett, Nzonzi, Andrews (sub Grella 70 mins), Pedersen, Roque Santa Cruz (sub Kalinic 11 mins), Roberts (sub Benjani 85 mins).

Subs not used: Bunn (GK), Jones, EH Diouf, Lowe.

Booked: None

Off: Baker (Aston Villa)

Attendance: 26,067

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