Lots to like from today's Guadiana Cup tie, not least of which would be the final scoreline with Villa emerging the victors 3-1. Much of the buzz surrounded Marc Albrighton, and for good reason; the 20 year old winger continued to impress, drilling a stunning goal from distance early, giving the keeper plenty of reason for worry on several other occasions and setting up Emile Heskey's shockingly athletic headed goal with a lovely cross. Albrighton was legitimately fantastic, and it will be interesting to see what Martin O'Neill chooses to do with the youngster once the results matter. A lineup of Downing and Albrighton on the wings with Gabby up top and Ashley in a floating CAM/CF position sounds like it could do some pretty serious damage against slower defenses.
Also impressing once again was the young fullback Eric Lichaj. This was the first chance I've really had to watch Lichaj closely for an extended period of time this year. If what I saw of him today is indicative of his development as a player, at this point I can safely say that not only do I think he is capable of holding down a spot on the first team, I think he's ready to enter the rotation and challenge for some significant playing time. Lichaj made several excellent runs without the ball, creating confusion and allowing Villa to exploit space on the wing. He's a technically strong passer and he's smart with his decision making in the build-up; not once today did I see him make a poor or ill-advised pass and he made several that led directly to some dangerous attacking play by Villa. He's clearly not the defender that Carlos Cuellar is, but Lichaj looks to me to be technically sound and plenty strong. My only complaint would be a lack of aggressiveness, as there were a few occasions that it appeared as though he was hesitant to make a challenge for fear of getting beaten or giving away a penalty. Ultimately nothing came of it, but against stronger competition it could certainly be exploited. That's something that will come with experience, however, and he certainly doesn't appear to be a liability. He's definitely a player to keep an eye on in the coming season.
Steve Sidwell scored Villa's third goal on a well-struck free-kick, yet another frustrating reminder of the player he's supposed to be and seldom is. MON also needs to do a bit better of a job keeping him out of the sun as his skin is currently a horrifying shade of reddish-tan that's frankly uncomfortable to look at. But hey, good on you for scoring in a game that doesn't matter at all, Steve. way to be.
Brad Guzan had a shaky first half, but he rebounded nicely to make some excellent saves to preserve Villa's lead late in the game. Villa dominated possession in the second half and many of Feyenoord's chances came on counter-attacks, so credit to Guzan for keeping his head in things and turning what at first appeared to be a poor performance into a quality one. It's nice to be reminded that if Friedel goes down for some reason Villa have a backup keeper that won't induce night-terrors.
It's important to note that while this is just a friendly and Feyenoord aren't exactly Chelsea, this was a fairly-competitive lineup and they're not exactly Walsall either. The established regulars looked good, the youngsters looked better (relative to expectation) and the effort was solid. It will be interesting to see who goes tomorrow against Benefica; I'm also hoping to see Delfouneso get some more time up front, as the young striker saw only 15 minutes or so of action today. Milner is in Portugal, as is Luke Young. I'd expect both of them to play tomorrow, and if either doesn't I'd have to think that qualifies as intriguing.