Aston Villa has been a Jekyll and Hyde team so far this season. While they have yet to surpass the impressive performances they showcased for portions of last season, they showed glimmers of hope Monday night with an admirable defensive display against a very talented Manchester City team.
It’s only fitting then that Aston Villa centre-half Richard Dunne was recognized as Man of the Match. He played a key role in not only scoring Villa’s solitary goal but in limiting Manchester City’s attempts on goal. The man was everywhere. Blocking attempts at goal. Commandeering the defense. Causing plenty of trouble in the box when Villa’s corners were floated in. And marking the Manchester City forwards out of the game.
On top of that, Dunne showed true class by not celebrating the goal he scored against his former club. It shows a true indication of his character and how mature he is as a footballer. It was a shame though that the majority of Aston Villa supporters couldn’t be as sportsmanlike in their behavior toward Gareth Barry as Dunne was to his former club. Barry was booed whenever he touched the ball throughout the game. And Villa supporters flashed 50 pound notes at him to make the point clear that they felt the former Villa captain left for monetary reasons.
Don’t forget that this is a Manchester City side that, other than Arsenal, have been one of the most entertaining and explosive sides in the league this season. Villa, in typical Martin O’Neill fashion, played a carefully constructed game where they closed City down as soon as they got the ball and controlled midfield cutting off the supply to Tevez, Adebayor and Bellamy. Phil Brown and Mick McCarthy should take note and force their players to study how well Aston Villa plays defensively and then breaks on the counter.
Even though playing at Villa Park, it was the claret and blues who played like an away side battling for a 1-0 win and they almost got it if it wasn’t for a simple but effective pass by Stephen Ireland that allowed Emmanuel Adebayor to slot the ball to Craig Bellamy who rocketed the ball into the back of the net past the reach of American goalkeeper Brad Friedel.
Both teams held on for a 1-1 draw in a game where I wouldn’t have been surprised if either team had scored a late winner. It wasn’t to be and, as a result, was a fair result for both sides. The challenge for Aston Villa, however, will be whether they can continue this level of performance in their upcoming games or whether they’ll succumb to some of their woeful performances we’ve seen them play in the last two months.
Overall, it was a mildly entertaining game that held my interest (although nowhere near as wonderful as the incredible spectacle the previous night during the Sevilla v Real Madrid match). Monday night’s TV production by ESPN UK was sublime. Commentator Jon Champion’s greeting to American viewers was a nice touch, and it was a pleasure to watch Roberto Martinez and Kevin Keegan provide tactical analysis at half-time alongside Ray Stubbs.
It was an enjoyable Monday night football match to watch with both teams putting in a spirited performance devoid of dirty fouls or shenanigans. And best of all, we were able to watch the spectacle in glorious HD.