Derby-day fever engulfed Birmingham and the Black Country – despite having to wait until 8pm on a Monday evening to watch the only Midlands derby at The Hawthorns this season.
As I battled my way through the M6 traffic, spurred on by the Radio WM with their football phone-in, I contemplated what a good result would be for the Baggies. Would we fall into the same counter-attacking trap Villa set for us in the first half last season? Or show how good of a footballing side we are – like the second half of last season’s game at The Hawthorns.
I decided on the latter and felt confident as I made my way through the crowds walking to the ground. Usually before a big game I’m a bag of nerves. But Albion have been playing well since the squad was refreshed at the end of August and I felt confident of three points against the Baggies’ traditional rivals from Witton.
My belief in the side was repaid minutes into the game. Albion were stroking the ball around neatly in midfield early on. The ball found Brunt who sent a searching ball for the chasing Long. The striker did fantastically well to first control the ball with his right boot before turning the defender and smashing the ball past Guzan. 1-0 after two minutes.
It got better for Albion minutes later. Villa were intent on passing the ball out from the back. Brunt pushed high up the field causing Bacuna into a dreadful cross-field pass. Long picked up the ball, rounded Baker and chipped the on-rushing Guzan. Shane Long 2 Aston Villa 0.
At this point Albion were rampant and looked threatening every time they went forward. Villa’s kids simply didn’t know what had happened to them. It should’ve been three nil in the 19th minute when Morgan Amalfitano found Stephane Sessegnon unmarked at the far post. But somehow the striker dragged his volley wide of the open net when it was easier to score.
The visitors came close to pulling a goal back in the 24th minute when a long ball found Kozak, whose volley clipped the top of the crossbar and out for a goal kick.
Long was terrorising the Villa defence with his pace and aerial ability. He almost scored a hat-trick on the half-hour mark when he burst through the visitor’s defence but fired straight at Guzan.
Villa were booed off at half time – such was Albion’s dominance.
After the break
Villa made three substitutions; Sessegnon missed another glorious chance; Villa resorted to long-ball tactics and scored twice after mistakes from Goran Popov – who was subbed.
After such a bright and energetic first half it’s disappointing only to get a point from the game. Until the 60th minute we were in total control. But we simply didn’t adapt to Villa’s change in formation. McAuley and Olsson had dealt with Villa’s long balls up to Benteke superbly until they had to worry about Agbonlahor and Weimann.
The two goals we gave away were poor. Villa’s midfielder was left unmarked by the dosing Popov for the first – who then compounded his error by heading the ball straight to Westwood for the equaliser. It was a terrible evening for the defender, who looked uneasy and panicked all night.
I would’ve settled for a point before game, but couldn’t help feel as thought we’d chucked it away. The body language of the players after the final whistle said the same thing.
Needless to say, Villa celebrated like it was 1982 at the final whistle. Wankers.
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