Damn, it feels good to be a gangster. At least, that's what I imagine is running through Stiliyan Petrov's head right now. Aston Villa may not have needed that extra goal against Sheffield United, but the captain's injury time shot at least reminded him how to put the ball into the net, rather than into the stands.The interplay that went on between Petrov and Albrighton was truly a delight to watch, though, with a back and forth between the elf and captain ending in a spin by Petrov to regain the ball from Albrighton.
Kyle Walker's 9th minute debut goal for the Villa will likely give Eric Lichaj nightmares. The Spurs loanee took the ball from near the halfway line up through the Sheffield defense, who seemed to just part in deference to their former player. Villa's new right back made that goal look easy.
Albrighton also impressed with Villa's second goal. The Blades were foolish not to pressure Ashley Young more, but they were also silly in allowing Albrighton to drift in, likely anticipating him to be out wider. They paid for their mistake when Elf-boy simply tapped the ball past the keeper.
It surely wasn't all a bundle of joy for Aston Villa. While Fulham, Everton, and even the hated Birmingham City managed decisive wins over their FA Cup opposition, the Villa made it difficult on themselves. Ashley Young was sent off in the 77th minute for a soft yellow, but considering he'd done much the same to earn the first yellow, he should've been smarter. Then again, Gerard Houllier's substitutions just ten minutes before were a little questionable. Most fans thought Petrov would be brought in for Robert Pires, with Ash making way for Stewart Downing, but Young stayed on and Barry Bannan came off.
Apparently Pires' fuss this week was enough to earn him a start in the Cup, which neither sets a good precedent nor proved anything for the Frenchman. His passing was inept and he could barely run. Face the facts, Pires, you're a bench player. But I disagree with Houllier that Bannan should have come off, and I don't think it's just my rose-colored Scottish glasses. He may have Petrov'd a shot, but Baz's passing was incisive and clever, and he was able to work the ball through the Sheffield midfield, who seemed clueless on where Bannan would go next. I would have liked to see him on with both Petrov and Nigel Reo-Coker.
Speaking of the vice-captain, who was wearing the armband today, it appears that he may have taken a knock to the head while he was out. He made two horrible decisions which almost resulted in goals for the Blades. Once, he tried to do some pretty footwork but gifted the ball to a Sheffield player, who would've scored had he not been a Sheffield player. Near the end of the match, he elected to pass the ball to a Blade, just outside the Villa area. Whoops.
While this win means Houllier is likely not gone this week, it may have brought more questions about his decision making prowess. Will he allow his players to dictate when they play? Why can't he find the right place for Ashley Young? Why remove Bannan? Villa have a pretty important match coming up against Small Heath. Let's hope that Houllier makes the right decisions then, if only for the sake of the sanity of Villa supporters.