However, his confidence in his team was not misplaced. This was a rattling cup tie on a proper football night chances for both teams, some terrific footballand a bit of controversy, too.
But at the end of it all, Martin O'Neill's enterprising Villa team were justified winners. They played brave, aggressive football, scored a superb goal and ultimately deserved the touch of fortune that came their way when Blackburn struck the frame of the goal twice in the second half.
One step beyond: James Milner's strike beats his former Leeds' team-mate Paul Robinson to put Aston Villa one game from a Carling Cup Final outing at Wembley
With a second leg to come at what will be a fevered Villa Park nextweek, it is hard to see how O'Neill's side will not be at Wembley forthe final next month. Blackburn have not won in nine games in allcompetitions and it is difficult to see them breaking that doleful runin Birmingham next Wednesday.
Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce called James Milner's 20th-minutewinner 'soft'. Another word would be sensational. Villa had alreadythreatened twice through Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young whenStewart Downing collected possession outside his own area and fedMilner before setting off down the right to take the return pass.
As Villa players struggled to keep up with the speed of their ownbreak, Milner made his mind up to head for the near post and, when thelow cross found him, he side-footed the ball across Paul Robinson withease.
It was a simple goal, but quite stunning too, and it set the tone for the rest of the opening period.
With Milner and the ever artful Stiliyan Petrov playing sublimely inthe centre of midfield, Villa dominated possession and territory.
Caught up: James Collins comes out on top in an aerial battle with Rovers pair Ryan Nelsen and Morten Gamst Pedersen
Blackburn were dreadful, particularly up front where the willingNikola Kalinic was often outnumbered by imposing Villa centraldefenders James Collins and Richard Dunne.
I'm not facing the Blackburn axe, insists defiant boss Sam AllardyceTHE INSIDER: Sevilla trying to tempt Aston Villa's Carlos Cuellar home as Liverpool hang on in the hunt for Marouane ChamakhCARLING CUP SEMI-FINAL: Blackburn v Aston Villa - as it happenedBLACKBURN ROVERS FC