A superb afternoon for Aston Villa was capped by a brilliant display by captain Ashley Young. The attacker netted twice, getting the opener from the penalty spot as well as rounding out the scoring with the fourth. Stewart Downing and an own goal by Grant Hanley made up the rest of the scorers for Villa. Nikola Kalinic bagged a consolation goal for Blackburn but nevertheless it was a thoroughly miserable afternoon for Steve Kean and his side. Their afternoon was summed up by the dismissal of Ryan Nelson just before the final whistle for two bookable offenses.
The first half ended goalless but not for want of trying from Aston Villa. Wave after wave of claret and blue pressure rained down on Paul Robinson’s goalmouth. Both Darren Bent and Robert Pires went close before the break and Gerard Houllier’s would no doubt have encouraged more of the same from his team in the second half. The floodgates were opened when Young was brought down in the box. Keith Andrews decided to try and dribble the ball out of his own box but Young robbed him and Andrews could not avoid bringing down the Villa skipper. Referee Atkinson pointed to the spot and Young coolly converted. As soon as the first goal was scored Villa relaxed into their play and two goals were quickly added. Blackburn had no response to the onslaught and only managed two shots on target all game. Despite matching Aston Villa for numbers in the midfield they were overrun and Roque Santa Cruz cut an isolated and frustrated figure and was later substituted.
It has been a poor season for Aston Villa by their recent standards but this win propels them from 16th into 12th, a far healthier position for a club of their stature. Furthermore, very few clubs in the league can boast as many quality wide players as Villa. Downing, Young and Marc Albrighton all turned in good performances, while Pires has the experience and calmness that comes with age and titles. Houllier will still be under pressure to produce results similar to those achieved by Martin O’Neill (especially given the large sums of money spent in the January window), but results like this suggest the club is once again moving in the right direction.
Meanwhile for Blackburn, while not a catastrophic result, it will certainly be a serious warning. Only a few points off the relegation zone and with 11 games still to be played, the possibility of getting embroiled in a survival dogfight remains. Venky’s talk of bringing in players like Ronaldinho, Robinho or Kaka seems a long way from the club’s current standard. Bringing in major stars on huge wages would be an unnecessary gamble. But Rovers fans will be worried that this squad does need solid investment. Without some financial backing Blackburn could potentially be in trouble next season.