Villa take advantage through to the second leg
Ewood Park, Blackburn
Attendance: Not what they wanted
What the hell was that first half?! It almost lulled Villa into a false sense of security!
In the first half of this two legged contest, Villa have a one nil win to take to Villa Park and will be strong favourites to progress to Wembley. But the second half at least gave Rovers some hope after a stunningly awful first half where Villa could have been out of sight.
James Milner was the goal hero as he romped forward from his own half and rolled in a cross from Stewart Downing to send the travelling Villans into delight. A good finish as well from the energetic midfielder.
The first half in general was very poor from Rovers as they seemed trapped in a 4-4-1-1 formation and too often went far too direct, Villa read it easily and Rovers as a result looked shockingly bad...
Villa were as good as Rovers were abd but I don't care about Villa, I care about Rovers... instead of going down the wings and attacking Villa where it hurt, Rovers stranded poor Niko Kalinic up front on his own with Dunn his only other outlet.
It was 4-5-1. In a Carling Cup semi-final. AT HOME. Good grief, the fans let Sam know their feelings with 'Big Sam, sort it out' chants ringing out around the ground as the first half drew to a close.
Could they play any worse in the second half? Thankfully, no, they were much better. In the second half, Rovers could lay claim to being marginally the better side but Villa always look threatening on the counter attack.
You know it won't be your night though when Kalinic hit the post TWICE and in the dying seconds Steven N'Zonzi headed over the bar when it was easier to score.
The introductions of Steven Reid and Martin Olsson actually helped the Rovers side and added balance, Steven Reid in particular added much mor punch down the right of midfield than Michel Salgado ever did.
But despite the spirited comeback and Sam reverting to 4-4-2 in the last ten minutes. The same problems remain and leave us with an uphill task in the second game -
Too predictable going forward.
A desperate lack of quality in the final third.
And now the fans have turned in full.
Sam has an even tougher job on his hands now to win the fans round.
Paul Robinson - 9
Top draw showing from Robbo, shame about those that were actually charged with playing in the outfield.
Lars Jacobsen - 5
Was taken off at half time to spare his blushes.
Chris Samba - 6
Won the aerial battle with Heskey but he needed to show a bit more decision in the tackle.
Ryan Nelsen - 6
He tried to lead by example but was put under toomuch pressure from the over ran midfield.
Pascal Chimbonda - 7
In the second half he grew in confidence - if only it had rubbed off on more around him.
Brett Emerton - 6
Being in central midfield with N'Zonzi is much better than with Andrews but he could have bought the wingers into play more.
Steven N'Zonzi - 6
Was again a good aerial threat but needs to increase the speed of his passing. Should have scored right at the end.
Michel Salgado - 5
But his attacking play is non-existent, or any meaningful aspect anyway. Disappointing night.
Morten Gamst Pedersen - 5
His general body language is an improvement on previous months this season but he was another one who fell short of what was needed.
David Dunn - 7
Does look a little short of match fitness but he tried his best to make Sam's stubborn tactics work.
Nikola Kalinic - 6
Nikola Kalinic is the unluckiest man in football.
Martin Olsson - 6
Can at least take credit that he is now a competent player.
Steven Reid - 6
His presence out on the right and his pace as a willing runner made him a threat. But he is another one short of fitness.
Benni McCarthy - 5
But most things he tried didn't come off ths time and he often struggled to find space for himself.