Aston Villa and the billion pound opposition

Dave Woodhall watches Villa go down to Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final.

No matter what they might say about the League Cup and its relevance or otherwise, 89 sets of supporters would have swapped places with us on Sunday morning. The Villa were playing in a Wembley final and as I never tire of saying, if that’s not important then football has sold way more of its soul than I ever thought possible.

Having said that, though, I thought the build-up to the game both in the days leading up to it and around Wembley itself was the most low-key I can remember. City believed they only had to turn up to win, while in all honesty Villa’s aim seemed to be avoiding embarrasment on a national stage.

Dean Smith made the changes he’d said he would, reverting to four at the back and bringing in Ahmed Elmohamady. The team seemed to respond and started off brightly before City got on top and their first goal after twenty minutes was a bit too predictable. Ten minutes later a corner that never was put them two up and the feared humiliating defeat looked likely.

But, and this is the significant thing, Villa re-grouped, re-doubled their efforts and as the first half was winding down Anwar El Ghazi’s cross found the head of Mbwana Samatta and from there the back of the net.

If we’re being honest, the second half was pretty much one-way traffic for most of the time. City passed the ball around with what can only be called the arrogance that comes from every player knowing what he has to do and the supreme confidence of being able to do it. Villa, meanwhile, chased a lot of shadows.

But, there was still only a goal between the sides and while City may have had a ludicrously high amount of possession and shots, little of either counted for much. Villa’s defence, rightly criticised so often this season, copef well and Orjan Nyland didn’t have much to do.

Caution was naturally thrown to the wind as the game wore on and in the dying minutes Bjorn Engels’ header was pushed onto the post. That was the closest Villa got to an equaliser and the players’ reactions at the final whistle told the full story of the afternoon. Villa’s slumped to the floor, exhausted with the effort, while City’s array of Galacticos were grateful to have got through a far harder test than anyone could have realistically imagined.

Jack Grealish had a quiet game by his standards, feeling perhaps the pressure of expectation as well as a niggling injury that seemed to hamper him for much of the second half. Douglas Luiz played further forward than of late and his influence was seen all over the pitch, while Samatta continues to show massive potential. The rest gave everything, which was all that could have been asked of them. The reaction of the Villa supporters was evidence of that.

On a weekend of shocks in the league it was perhaps too much to hope that one more could take place, particularly on such a stage and with the important decisions going the expected way.

And so back to the mundanity of battling to avoid relegation. A gallant loser might still be a loser, although there was much to be taken from the afternoon. Villa may not be able to match the ability of a side that’s taken ten years and almost a billion pounds to build, but they more than matched them for effort. Do that in the remaining cup finals this season and all is far from lost.

3 thoughts on “Aston Villa and the billion pound opposition

  1. What a load of deluded nonsense. City took the game very seriously and never just think they can just turn up.. Guardiola wouldn’t let them! 70% possession and great work rate tells the actual truth. Hardly ‘arrogance’ as the author (who should know better and take of his Claret n Blue tinted specs) . They would gave won by more but for Mings and Nyland. Villa were really poor with Grealish anonymous. As poor as their graceless thugs that were causing trouble before and after the game, attacking lone City fans and families, let alone fighting amongst themselves. What an embarrassment those thugs were to Villa. On this form Villa will go down. A far cry from the days of O’Neil let alone Saunders. 2-1 flattered Villa enormously and a huge improvement is needed if a once great club is to stay up.

    • What is deluded about a £1bn team dominating a match? Villa fans are proud of their team in the face of such adversity and having read a few Man City forums I am sure they would never want to become the arrogant, egotistical, ‘up their own arse’ the once great traditional and passionate City fans have now become! I bet there is not a fan in the country that don’t hope it all falls apart now City’s arrogance and wilful neglect has been truly exposed

    • Just look at the comparison of the two teams, there’s a massive gulf there. Man. City did what everyone expected them to do but Villa gave them a game. City were the ones hanging on at the end. Don’t forget their second should never have been. When your owners decide they don’t want to pump anymore money in the club we’ll see how you get on then. Enjoy your ride while it lasts and don’t be so arrogant, football goes in cycles.

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