Blackburn 0 Aston Villa 2: Magical Milner has fearless Villa buzzing

09 February 2009 01:44
James Milner is playing like a young man whose time has come. Aston Villa

, the most exciting team in the Barclays Premier League bar one, are about to discover whether they fall into that same compelling category.

Milner, as modest now as when he was thrilled to be on the same pitch as Alan Smith as a 16-year-old prodigy at Leeds United, insists there is plenty of work still to be done as he savours a first England cap in Seville on Wednesday night.

Martin O'Neill, with half his swashbuckling young side on Fabio Capello's plane to Spain, is desperately putting the brakes on the expectations of the small army who celebrated a club record seventh successive away win at Ewood Park.

Modesty blaze: Milner celebrates scoring the opener

 BLACKBURN 0 VILLA 2: The action as it happened



But even Villa's pragmatic manager, who senses something special is happening, will have to admit he has a phenomenon on his hands if his troubadours are still weaving their mesmerising spell in the consecutive fixtures at Anfield, in six weeks' time, and then at Old Trafford.


in front of the Kop, followed by a trip to Manchester United

13 days later, would leave the best fretting, but there is no fear in the team O'Neill has steered into third place.

Their Champions League dream — and it is Chelsea

up next — gains weight by the week. Unbeaten since they contrived to lose at home to Middlesbrough

in November, the club's travelling band are currently matched only by champions United in the quality of their football and the verve with which it is executed and rivals dispatched.

Happy camp: Villa's young squad mob Milner after his opener at Ewood Park. Martin O'Neill's side are unbeaten in 13 league matches, since losing to Middlesbrough on November 9

Milner, magnificent in demolishing Sam Allardyce's nine-match unbeaten run since his arrival at Blackburn

, has emerged as a vital part of Villa's blueprint for success. No wonder England chief Capello referred to him as 'the future' earlier this season.

He scored a left-foot beauty inside half-an-hour past his old Leeds team-mate Paul Robinson, but that was hardly the half of it.

Catalyst: Milner's game has developed under O'Neill

O'Neill struggled afterwards to pinpoint any flaw in his dynamic performance that might keep the headline-writers at bay.

In the end, his manager had to go with the flow. 'I thought James was brilliant in the year he was here on loan and his game has expanded since then,' said O'Neill, who signed Milner for £12million from Newcastle


'He has been terrific. He's got the ability to beat players and defensively he covers so much ground at the first sign of danger. His performances have been fantastic.

'If he's consistent in the next 18 months, the World Cup in South Africa is a certainty.'

Milner, 23, has found a home. He said: 'I feel very lucky to be at this club and I'm enjoying every minute. There is a buzz about the place, you enjoy coming to work every  day. The momentum is with us but we mustn't get carried away.'

Allardyce's record was done for well before Gabby Agbonlahor's last-minute shot skewed in off home skipper Ryan Nelsen.

Rovers left back Stephen Warnock admitted: 'Villa are as good a side as we've played this year. They have quality and pace, they break so quickly and that's a fantastic asset.

'Just look at the threat up front, and they've bought Emile Heskey. I know him from Liverpool and he's such a good player, who doesn't get recognition for what he does. But Martin O'Neill knows all about him. He'll get the best out of players.'

BLACKBURN ROVERS (4-4-2): Robinson 5; Ooijer 6, Samba 5, Nelsen 6, Warnock 5;Pedersen 5, Grella 6, Andrews 5 (Tugay, 46min, 5), Dunn 5 (Diouf 46, 6); McCarthy 5, Roberts 6 (Santa Cruz 73, 5).

Booked: Tugay.

ASTON VILLA (4-4-2): Friedel 6; Cuellar 6 (Gardner, 46 7), Knight 7, Davies 6, L Young 6; Milner 9, Petrov 6, Barry 8, A Young 7; Heskey 6 (Carew, 70 6), Agbonlahor 7.

Booked: Barry.

Man of the match: James Milner.

Referee: Steve Bennett.

 BLACKBURN 0 VILLA 2: The action as it happened




Source: Daily_Mail