BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE – VILLA PARK – Saturday 31st January 2009

Maynor Figueroa and Paul Scharner were the heroes of the day as they put themselves in the right place at the right time on several occasions to stop Villa scoring, they and the rest of the team defended like their lives depended on it to earn a point.

The first half saw Villa get into Latics faces from the off and carved out the first couple of chances, Gareth Barry being instrumental. Figueroa was called on twice to make challenges which halted the Villa attacks.

Latics did get back into the game and made it an end to end final half hour which saw us carve out a couple of good chances in between the long punts to Heskey. Scharner, playing in midfield for this game saw our first shot, but his 25 yard effort went wide off the uprights.

Daniel de Ridder was next to get his eye in, but after great work from Melchiot and Scharner, the Dutchman was thwarted by Friedal in the Villa goal. Heskey was making himself his usual nuisance, but Bramble had his mark and never put a foot wrong whilst containing the big man.

Cattermole could have give us the lead after a free kick saw Scharner cushion the ball over to him, but Lee blasted the ball over the bar when he really should have done better. The last chance of a half that saw a lot of misplaced passes and long balls, saw Figueroa’s 6 yard header miraculously saved by the Villa keeper.

The second half was a different story as Villa threw wave after wave of attacks on us, they had a shout for a penalty but the ref brushed nit away as the hand ball by Figueroa was totally unintentional. Maybe Villa isn’t top four in the ref’s eyes yet eh!!!

Just after, a Gareth Barry free kick comes back off the post with the rebound being cleared, Garner had a header saved by Kirkland before Latics got a rare break which saw Mido outdone again by Friedal who saved well down to his left.

Barry takes another free kick just 35 yards out and Heskey has his header well cleared by Figueroa at the near post. Next was John Carew with an overhead kick that went well wide.

Mido had a shot pushed out for a corner, which Koumas took and resulted in Bramble having a 30 yard effort, but his shot was well over the bar.

Villa went straight up the other end and won a free kick on the edge of the box. Milner placed it right in the heart of the 6 yard box which saw a bit of pin ball occur, with first Figueroa and then Scharner clearing the ball of the line form shots from Heskey and Carew.

Just minutes later Villa broke again after a poor Latics free kick, Petrov fed the ball to Carew whose shot was cleared off the line again by Scharner who then clear the rebound off Milner off the line as well.

From the corner Kirkland had to be brave to punch the ball away from Carew’s head and Figueroa made an excellent last ditch tackle to stop Agbonlahor scoring from 10 yards. The last 3 minutes of the half were saw out with Latics actually managing to get hold of the ball.

The referee blew up with score 0-0, but for the neutral it must have been one of the more exciting ones, for me it left me with no nails……

Report by Jason Taylor

Referee: Rob Styles (Hampshire)
Attendance: 41,766
1 Brad Friedel 1 Chris Kirkland
2 Luke Young 25 Mario Melchiot
16 Zat Knight 19 Titus Bramble
24 Carlos Cuellar 17 Emmerson Boyce
15 Curtis Davies 31 Maynor Figueroa
6 Gareth Barry 4 Lee Cattermole
19 Stiliyan Petrov 7 Paul Scharner
26 Craig Gardner 18 Daniel de Ridder
8 James Milner 11 Michael Brown
18 Emile Heskey 10 Jason Koumas
11 Gabriel Agbonlahor 9 Mido
22 Brad Guzan 12 Mike Pollitt
21 Nicky Shorey 3 Erik Edman
17 Moustapha Salifou 21 Tomasz Cywka
4 Steve Sidwell 24 Ben Watson
27 Isaiah Osbourne 20 Hugo Rodallega
10 John Carew 23 Olivier Kapo
14 Nathan Delfouneso 27 Henri Camara
46′ Player Off Daniel de Ridder
Player On Hugo Rodallega
61′ Yellow Card Curtis Davies
62′ Player Off Craig Gardner
Player On John Carew
77′ Player Off Paul Scharner
Player On Ben Watson
85′ Yellow Card Michael Brown