Aston Villa 3 Blackburn Rovers 1: match report
Two defeats over the festive season, especially the nature of their last-minute loss to Liverpool on Tuesday night, had left Aston Villa a little low and in need of a New Year pick-me-up. Progression to the fourth round of the FA Cup will do just fine, thank you very much. Not that it was strenuous, by any stretch of the imagination. Martin O'Neill couldn't have chosen better opposition to face after defeats to Arsenal and Liverpool than a distracted Blackburn Rovers if he had sat down with a pencil and rubber and drawn up his team's fixture list himself. Sam Allardyce's side are more interested in Tuesday night's Carling Cup semi-final between the same two sides. The Blackburn manager occasionally argued with the referee for appearances sake, but his side didn't look to bothered about this at all. They missed a penalty and even their goal seemed an afterthought. O'Neill made changes of his own and it was one of these, Nathan Delfouneso, who got things going by heading a cross from Ashley Young past Jason Brown. O'Neill has a lot of faith in the 18 year-old, and four goals in six starts is some return. Blackburn were given an invitation to the party when Steven Reid was brought down in the area in the 30th minute by Nigel Reo-Coker. But if there is one goalkeeper you don't want to face from the spot this season it is Guzan. The square jawed American doesn't get much chance to shine, being Brad Friedel's apprentice and kept to cameo cup appearances, but he has a nice line in penalty saves, and David Dunn was his latest victim. To make matters worse for Blackburn, just seven minutes had elapsed before Villa punished the missed opportunity by extending their lead, and then El Hadji Diouf got sent off. Young swung in a stock-in-trade free-kick, Carlos Cuellar and James Collins went up together for the same header, the ball settled in the corner of the net. Both men wheeled away in delight, but Cuellar claimed the prize. Emile Heskey could have buried the knife soon into the second half, but he fluffed the chance, which looked a pity rather than a problem until Guzan dropped inswinging corner and Nikola Kalinic bundled the ball into the net. John Carew was brought down by Gael Givet just before the final whistle, and ther striker tucked it into the corner. Villa will face more serious opposition on Tuesday night.
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