Villa 2-2 Fulham

Back and forth it went: first up Paintsil collapsed to meet a Downing cross and nodded in his third own goal of the season (13 mins).  Then AJ reacted quickly to a Friedel parry and headed bravely home for 1-1 (52). Then Kyle Walker (the furthest man back at the time) picked up a loose ball, beat Sidwell and blasted a daisy cutter past Mark Schwarzer from (conservatively) 25 yards (72).  Then Clint Dempsey climbed highest in the area and headed in another equaliser (78).  2-2.   Phew.  What a strange game.

Much to ponder, not least:  is Paintsil ‘done for’?   In the week Mark Hughes addressed JP’s contract situation (it expires this season) by not addressing it (‘let’s see how he plays’), and today Paintsil ended up being substituted on the hour.  It didn’t seem entirely necessary but Paintsil isn’t playing all that well.  He’s never been particularly good going forwards, but if the defending goes wrong he’s in trouble.  His common or garden play today was fair enough, but there were many places he could have headed Downing’s cross, and again he was found wanting.   We must not forget that for all its narratives, sub-plots and intrigue, football is a simple game about goals for and against, and handing out cheap concessions is not what good teams do.   (Our own George Cohen reckons he got his England place because Sir Alf Ramsey lost trust in Jimmy Armfield after a dodgy backpass that led to a goal).

Otherwise we played quite well.  Not surprisingly, Villa were alive to what our players could do, so Murphy was forced to rove around in search of space, Dembele never quite broke free of his markers, Dempsey was shut out almost entirely (for the second straight game) and there was a general sense of our players needing at least one furtherpassing option when attacking:  as it was Villa shut down our angles extremely well, and for a long time many of our attempts (and there were a few) were fiercely contested or snuffed out before they became dangerous.

Speaking of fierce, our new number 7 had a stormer:  Steve Sidwell had much to prove, of course, but there was a real snap in his play, the kind of Bryan Robson performance that makes his lack of football in the last couple of years baffling.   He had several shots on goal, most of them decent, and of course it was his drive that Friedel parried for Johnson’s equaliser.   He made some serious tackles too. Long may this continue; he looks like a phenomenal signing.

It’s all there or thereabouts.   The team’s playing well and usually we’d expect nothing from Villa Park.  That we got a point and could have had three says enough, especially given Villa’s improvement in recent weeks.

11 thoughts on “Villa 2-2 Fulham

  1. Are we leading the EPL in own goals this year? There are four that I can tally: JP-3 & Brede-1. Three of those o.g.’s resulted in ties, and one resulted in a loss. If you look at these results as dropped points, we’ve effectively lost seven!

  2. At times I couldn’t believe this was a Fulham away game. Some impressive stuff, especially by Sidwell. Great to be proven so wrong by Andy Johnson, as well. The speed with which he ran for that goal was the Johnson of old.

    Being proven wrong a lot of late; Hughes really does seem the man to take us forward and I can’t wait to see what we can achieve next season if we’re able to keep more-or-less the same squad. On that note, I think it’ll be a shame if we lost Pantsil. No matter the bloopers, I always think we look a stronger side with him in it.

  3. I wish Sidwell’s passing were a bit more crisp (though Murphy wasn’t exactly helping him in this regard), but he was huge today. Between his forward pressure and constantly breaking up Aston Villa threats, I’m very pleased to have him around. If we keep drawing most of our away games and winning most of our home games, good things could be coming indeed.

    I’m of two minds about Pantsil. As rjbiii wrote, I feel more confident with him on the pitch, and both Baird and Salcido make me a little nervous. But you simply cannot make a habit of own goals. I’ll trust Hughes’ judgement on that one.

    I don’t think I drew a breath the entire time Dembele was rolling around like he’d been lanced in the ankle.

  4. Have to agree that Pants isn’t at his best but – if I may make a plea for the defence – on his own goal the ball did seem to get deflected at the last minute which might…and only might…have unsettled him slightly

  5. Very good result. To come back twice on the road is a huge confidence boost to the side. Sidwell has really fit nicely into the team and it’s great to see AJ has gotten his sea legs back. I admit that I had real concerns about AJ ever getting his legs back, but he’s proven me dead wrong.

    Regarding Pantsil, I think that Hughes has never rated him. I thought the exchange that Hughes and Pantsil had when he was coming on as a first half sub for Salcido against Brum back in Nov was telling. The camera caught Hughes becoming increasingly aggravated with the amount of time it was taking Pantsil to get ready (and this was on the heels of JP being out of favor for several matches). One would have thought that he would have sprinted onto that field and been happy for the opportunity to play again.

    There’s still plenty of time left for Pantsil to redeem himself, but when a manager takes a defender off in a tied match, that’s not a good sign for the player’s long-term future at the club.

    1. I though the anger in this game was because Kelly was down by the Putney End warming up instead of getting ready to replace Salcido, so he threw the unfavoured Paintsil on instead as he was ready and had a solid game with immense crowd support and he hasn’t been out of the side since.
      Think Johnny was a bit unlucky with the OG. Guy behind him would more than likely have scored so he had to do something. Kind of reminded me of Baird’s OG last season (was that against Brum?).

      1. I can’t speak to the issue with Kelly as I wasn’t at the match.

        It was clear as day that Hughes yells “John” and then makes gestures that most would interpret as “you’re taking too long, come on already!”

  6. Am I the only person who was at the game who didn’t think that Pantsil was all that bad? Baird had a worse time of it I thought, particularly in the first half when he gave Downing a frankly bizarre amount of space.

    Sidwell was good again. Started a bit slowly but was really dynamic by the end of the game. Thought we were going to nick it right at the death. Hangeland was absolutely immense – my first thought as I saw the Arsenal score come in was how much they could do with Brede right now.

    Oh and Villa fans are a grumpy bunch too.

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