It was a night to remember for Aston Villa and their fans at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday, with their victory against Premier League champions Manchester City in the Capital One Cup certainly the highlight of their season so far.
Mario Balotelli had scored six goals in his four previous appearances against Aston Villa, so it was no surprise when he gave the hosts the lead in the 27th minute. Many would have then expected Villa to crumble, especially following a crushing defeat away to Southampton just three days previously, but that was not to be the case this time round.
Despite Manchester City starting a relatively strong line-up, it would be Villa who would go on to win the game 4-2. They were inspired on the night by a terrific performance from local lad Gabriel Agbonlahor, who was making his first start since his return from a knee injury picked up in pre-season, grabbing himself a brace in the match.
The success will be a great morale boost for Paul Lambert’s team who are still slowly rebuilding their confidence from a dismal last season. Lambert hailed his side’s terrific display against a team thought to be one of the favourites to win the competition, but he knows there is still much work to be done before Villa can truly celebrate
Only 18 months ago it was Aston Villa’s neighbours that managed to go all the way in the competition, with former manager Alex McLeish leading his Birmingham side to a 2-1 victory over much favoured Arsenal. Birmingham then suffered a severe dip in form that eventually saw them relegated on the last day of the season.
With this victory against champions of England Manchester City, many Villa fans will now start to believe that their team can go to success at Wembley, after losing out in the final of the competition three seasons ago to City’s local rivals Manchester United.
The victory was achieved through a change of system for Lambert as he decided to try out a 4-2-3-1 formation instead of his usual tried and trusted 4-4-2. Christian Benteke was tasked with the role of lone striker, well supported with all around him in Charles N’Zogbia, Andy Weimann and man of the match Agbonlahor. It was a system that allowed the Villa players to counter-attack at pace, much like the system former manager Martin O’Neill adopted during his tenure at the club. With the game plan working so well once more, Lambert has a huge decision to make as he prepares his team for their next league fixture this weekend.
Lambert must now re-focus the players’ minds on their important fixture this weekend, as they face in form West Bromwich Albion at Villa Park on Saturday. Without Birmingham or Wolverhampton Wanderers to face this season, West Brom will be Aston Villa’s only local derby and Lambert knows he must follow up the superb result achieved against City with another win in the league this weekend.
The former Norwich manager was given the task of rebuilding Villa. A win against a West Brom side who currently sit in the top four of the Premier League would certainly help towards that, and Lambert must ensure his players are not still reliving their Etihad fairytale when the game begins.
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