The first half was low key, underwhelming and frustrating (no boos at the whistle though), before things livened up in the second period. Benteke missed a sitter, Caulker deflected home Defoe’s close range shot, Lambert conceded the midfield (and the game) by subbing off Delph (his best player) and Albrighton, Lennon took the piss out of Bennett to make it two, Villa’s heads dropped, Bennett left on a stretcher reducing them to ten men, game over.
Going through the side –
Lloris – Brought in to sweep up quickly in front of Gabby and behind Gallas he performed that task well, particularly in the first half when our lads took it in turns to concede in dangerous areas. AVB will have hoped for an improvement in distribution over last week, instead the keeper’s debut was almost memorable for his suicidal throw directly to Albrighton, thankfully Benteke’s ineptness let him off.
Walker – As usual his impression of a lit Catherine Wheel on speed left one wondering whether he’s a liability or a future Hall of Famer. Unlucky in the second half when that very rare thing for him, a pin point cross, was misjudged by Dempsey.
Vertonghen – Arguably the only player to play as well in the first half as he did in the second. More likely to appear in the opponent’s area than his own. Another top performance.
Gallas – Under pressure more than Caulker as Benteke and Agbonlahor both played down his side. Coped well though. Was guilty of some unnecessarily scary passing in the first half, but he wasn’t alone there, Dembélé, Sandro and Walker were all equally culpable.
Caulker – No-one to mark most of the time, not until Bent came on anyway. Didn’t give the sub the chance to recreate his Mrs Redknapp moment. Not as effective at attacking corners/free-kicks as he has been, Bale’s delivery was mostly to blame though. Took his goal well.
Bale – Not a game he’ll remember with any affection. His dive made him the pantomime villain amongst the more self-righteous of the away fans, I hope they remember to give the same level of opprobrium to their three players all booked for scything down Lennon cynically when he was past them and Albrighton, whose second half dive they’ll have witnessed at very close range.
Lennon – A typical, if rare, (is that possible?) goal was the highlight. The vast majority of his work is of good quality, great when he’s as involved as he was here.
Sandro – When forced to be all things to all men, as he was in the first half, he looks limited and a liability. When the others are doing their jobs around him, he looks a world beater. Let him run, tackle and chase, not do Andre Pirlo impressions.
Dembélé – Seemed to be trying to get caught in possession on purpose in the first half, and was successful a few times. Much improved in the second, strong and skilful.
Dempsey – We bought him for his goals making his fluffing of the header from Walker’s cross disappointing. Disappeared into the midfield whirlpool at 0-0, more prominent when things opened up more. Assisted Lennon for his goal.
Defoe – One of his more exasperating performances. His selfishness when anywhere near goal (as well as getting offside) is one of the things that marks him as a player, he could’ve used the ball better several times today though. Adebayor couldn’t have come on at a better time but even taking that into consideration he may have done enough to have Defoe watching from the bench next time out.
A good win but a struggle, as much against ourselves as the opposition, for too long. Two weeks off and then Chelski. COYS.
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