Aston Villa returned to winning ways after a goal fest at Villa Park on Saturday. John Carew performed brilliantly in front of the home fans to set up three of the five goals and also land on the scoresheet with an excellent solo run.
The first goal came when an inch perfect cross from James Milner found Carew – who, leaping above Zat Knight forced an excellent diving save from Jussi Jaaskelainen – however, Ashley Young was on hand to fire the ball into the roof of the net in with only five minutes on the clock. Villa’s second came just before half-time – Carew ran the ball to the by-line, shrugged off Gary Cahill and calmly passed to an appreciative Gabby Agbonlahor who slotted the ball through Jaaskelainen’s legs.
For a brief moment it looked like there could be a upset when Cahill wandered into the Villa penalty area and pounced on a loose ball – the ex-Villa player chested neatly and his shot deflected up past Brad Friedel onto the post and Johan Elmander stole in to tap the ball into the open net. Carew showed magnificent strength for the Villans third, receiving the ball with his back to goal just inside the area, he turned Knight who went to ground easily and then nutmegged Cahill, leaving the big Norwegian to then calmly slotted the ball into the goal to the keepers left.
Moments later Carew could have had a second but was adjudged to have been taken down by Kevin Davies. Milner took the resulting penalty which Jaaskelainen brilliantly parried, but the ball spun straight out to Steve Sidwell who fired straight against the post, but to the Trotters misfortune the rebound came straight out to Milner who slid the ball in for Villa’s fourth. Milner crossed again from the left this time finding the head of Carlos Cuellar who nodded the ball backwards to score his first for the club. A late curling Ashley Young free-kick forced another fine save from Jaaskelainen who was easily the busiest man on the pitch.
Martin O’Neill: “I was very pleased with the win and with the performance. I think we had been threatening a performance like that, in terms of goals, for some time.”
Gary Megson: “They looked a yard quicker than us, they looked stronger than us, and we started poorly, it was probably as bad a performance, certainly this season and I would say the worst for a couple of years.”
Megson said Bolton put in an “awful performance” against the Villans, and the defence were certainly the worst factor in this defeat. They struggled to cope with the power and pace that Agbonlahor and Carew offered. Carew put in a Man of the Match performance to destroy the Bolton defence setting up three goals for his colleagues. The Wanderers back-four at times were torn apart by the Villa attack and Carew – who held the line superbly – brought others into the game laying off balls to the speedy triple threat of Young Agbonlahor and Milner. Carew showed why Emile Heskey has only started a handful of times this year, his all round game was excellent yesterday.
Cahill and Knight used to play a key part in Villa’s central defence, and another ex-Villa defender, Jlloyd Samuel missed out through suspension. The Villans’ skipper Stiliyan Petrov was missing through injury so Nigel Reo-Coker was captain and led five-star Villa to victory. Having won only one in six prior to today, Villa played Bolton off the park. Milner was missed greatly against West Ham in midweek and the former Leeds man ran the flank tremendously, cutting inside and crossing regularly.
Bolton on the other hand looked bereft of confidence at the back and this seemed to leak through to the rest of the team. It is also the third season in a row that Wanderers have conceded four or more at Villa Park. Megson will have his work cut out on the training ground this week and will want to rectify these problems in time for the next match. This falls after the international break however, so the Bolton boss will have plenty of time to reorganise.
Villa showed they can score from any position when defender Cuellar headed his way onto the scoresheet. As well as both attackers scoring, two midfielders also netted showing how dangerous O’Neill’s men are throughout the side. The manager will be delighted that the five goals came from five different players. Gabby Agbonlahor also played well and after his sixth Premier League goal this season he will certainly be forcing Fabio Capello’s hand for the World Cup this summer.
The Villans had a point to prove to manager Martin O’Neill today after losing in the last minute midweek and were ruthless in front of goal. This was the first victory the home fans had seen at Villa Park since their 2-1 defeat of Chelsea in October. With a performance such as this the mood should now be high amongst the players and supporters and they will want to make a hardened push for the elusive Champions League fourth spot.
Megson’s men on the other hand now slip into 16th position, only one point above the relegation zone. If their defensive frailties can be figured out and they can continue playing some of the fine passing football that has had pundits praising the manager so far this season there is no reason why they can’t finish mid-table.
Aston Villa 5-1 Bolton Wanderers – Young 5, Agbonlahor 43, Carew 53, Milner 72, Cuellar 75 – Elmander 45
Aston Villa (4-4-2): Friedel – Young, Dunne, Cuellar, Warnock – A.Young, Sidwell (Gardner 86), Reo-Coker (Delph 86), Milner (Delfouneso 82) – Carew, Agbonlahor.
Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen – Robinson, Cahill, Knight, Ricketts (Steinsson 69) – Taylor, Muamba, Gardner, Lee – Cohen (Elmander 29), Davies.
Aston Villa – Bolton Wanderers
8 – Corners – 1
13 (6) – Shots (on target) – 9 (4)
17 – Fouls – 16
1 – Yellow cards (Red) – 4
2 – Offside – 1