In a spirited and sometimes sloppily played match, Aston Villa defeated Portland Timbers 5-4 Tuesday night in a penalty shoot-out at Jeld Wen Field in Portland, Oregon. The teams tied 2-2 at the end of regulation time.
With the victory, Aston Villa completed its US summer tour with three straight wins over MLS sides (beating Philadelphia Union, Chicago Fire and the Timbers).
In the Portland game, Aston Villa started a lineup without regulars Darren Bent, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Richard Dunne — who were carrying minor injuries. Nevertheless, after an early flurry by the Timbers, Villa exerted control after 20 minutes, led by Stephen Ireland who displayed quickness combined with some splendid passing. Ireland’s movement through midfield showed he is ready for the upcoming EPL season. Villa took a 1-0 lead into the interval when Ciaran Clark headed in Barry Bannon’s corner in the 41st minute.
In the second half the teams substituted liberally and the match got sloppy, evidenced by poor defensive play. The lack of cohesion by the teams led to many chances by both squads to the delight of the sold-out crowd. In the 72nd minute, Portland Timbers forward Sebastian Rincon scored on a corner to tie the game at 1-1. Villa went ahead at the 80 minute mark when Alan Hutton scored on a corner. Not to be denied, Rodney Wallace converted on a deflected shot that eluded Aston Villa’s American keeper Brad Guzan, and made the score 2-2 in the 81st minute, which is how the game ended after 90 minutes.
To the surprise of the fans, many who had left at the end of regulation time, a shoot-out was announced. Aston Villa won it 5-4 after Guzan stopped Eric Brunner’s attempt, which was followed by the winner from Villa.
The atmosphere at Jeld Wen Field was special. The Timber Army was present in full force. Its singing of the national anthem was quite moving. The Army was out in full force standing and singing throughout the match. Timber Joey got to cut two slices through his logs resulting in raucous cheers from the Timber faithful. When the Timbers joined MLS two years ago, it made $40 million worth of improvements to Jeld Wen and converted it from a dreary minor league baseball venue to one of the jewels of MLS. It is a ground reminiscent of many of the old and storied English stadiums.
Although, the Timbers are currently struggling after sacking their manager and in last place, amid calls from their interim manager that the squad has quit, they can be proud of their performance from Tuesday evening. With its glorious history and loyal fans, good times should come soon.
For Aston Villa, last year’s near relegation should only be a bad dream as new gaffer Paul Lambert appears to have his team playing a more upbeat style which should encourage its fans and erase the bad form of the past season.