Aston Villa and looking the other way

Villa beat Lille in the Uefa Conference League. That’s one thing Dave Woodhall likes.

When you’re a football supporter you hand your sense of morality in at the door and replace it with a set of double standards. The Premier League have just thrown 150-odd years of tradition away because they don’t fancy playing FA Cup replays but when the Villa win it I’ll still say it’s the greatest competition in football. Likewise if what happened tonight was against us I’d have been going mental but it was the other way round so it was perfectly acceptable.

I was fairly calm going into the match. Villa had played well within themselves in the home leg whereas Lille had done as well as they could, they had to score twice to go through and if the tie went to penalties we had Emiliano Martinez. More on that later. To help with my sense of optimism Unai Emery almost got his team selection pefectly right. I’d have gone for Morgan Rogers instead of Mouusa Diaby but apart from that, well done Unai.

I wasn’t particularly confident throughout most of the match, thougs,. Lille proved that their performance last week wasn’t a fluke and Villa showned that theirs wasn’t a one-off either. Fifteen minutes gone and the aggregate scored were level after Villa allowed a Lille player to move to the edge of the area unmarked and his shot was perfectly placed.

Martinez then had to make a typically outstanding reflex save while at the other end Matty Cash should have done better when he was clean through on the keeper although he was offside according to the officials, warming up in their ineptitude. Rogers came on for Nicolo Zaniolo, who’d already been booked by a referee getting into his stride.

There were chances at both ends after the break, then midway through the second half a corner was worked well to give Lille a two-goal lead. Villa have been poor at defending set-pieces too many times this season but this wasn’t down to bad marking, it was just superbly played. Diaby was replaced by Leon Bailey then with ten minutes to go Jhon Duran came on for John McGinn. Still Villa looked unlikey to score.

Cash had a longerange shot pushed round the post and there were three minutes left when the Lille keeper dropped a cross that eventually fell to Dalian Atkinson, sorry, Matty Cash to hit from twrnty yards, via a deflection. Half an hour went by without further incident then came the penalties.

I’ll say two things about them. The first is that how can so many media pundits be so ignorant of the laws of the game? Everyone knows that bookings aren’t carried over into a shoot-out, don’t they? And second, I await the forthcoming Uefa inquiry into the behaviour of the Lille supporters and their constant barrage of missiles. I’m sure they’ll be treated in exactly the same way as English fans would. No, I’ll say something else. I couldn’t care less how Emi Martinez behaves. He’s the best goalkeeper in the world and he’s ours. He can do what he wants, when he wants. I have got standards, they’re just double.

And while I have your attention, a final word about that FA Cup decision. 729 clubs took part in this year’s competition, twenty of them have decided on this idea. It’s a disgraceful, money-orientated decision that flies in the face of what does make the FA Cup the greatest competition in the world. If Villa voted in favour then for once this isn’t a case of my club right or wrong – it’s just wrong.