Aston Villa 2v0 Rovers
5th November 2006. 14:00
Another Sunday sees another poor performance and further concern about the standard of refereeing in this country. It would be easy to blame the officials, who continue to make games twice as hard for Rovers to win, but in all fairness it was a very dour effort from Mark Hughes`s men.
Hughes made a single change from the side that was fortunate enough to thrash Basel; Aaron Mokoena replaced the injured Robbie Savage.
The game began in a lethargic manner, neither side showing much endeavour to get forward. It was Villa, though, who had the first site on goal. From a Stilian Petrov corner, centre-back Martin Laursen could and perhaps should have put Villa in front but he scrambled his shot wide of the goal.
Rovers certainly weren`t at the races as Villa continued to press with ease whilst their water-tight defence smirked at the prospect of a Rovers attack, such was the rarity of them.
It wasn`t until the 30th minute that Rovers fashioned a chance for the frustrated Benni McCarthy. Lucas Neill picked him out in the area but his header was harmlessly off target.
David Bentley did his utmost to provide some spark in such a disappointing fixture. His rasping effort from distance was well saved by Thomas Sorenson.
Then, in the 40th minute, Villa`s twelfth man changed the game. Referee, Howard Webb, aided by his assistant on the touchline felt it would make for a nice gesture to award Villa a penalty for no reason. It was doubly harsh that he chose to do it against Andre Ooijer.
Ex-Rover, Chris Sutton, crossed from inside the area but the ball hit Ooijer on the arm. There was obviously no intention to handle but the assistant thought otherwise.
Gareth Barry stepped up and thumped the ball down the middle in typically emphatic fashion.
The goal sparked Villa into life and they finished the half peppering Brad Friedel`s goal.
Rovers came out in the second half, noticeably stirred after their usual berating from a frustrated Hughes, but were this time thwarted by their own inability to clear their lines.
Zurab Khizanishvili, normally so assured on the ball, was caught dallying on the ball in his own area by Juan Pablo Angel. He promptly rifled the ball into the bottom corner to make it 2-0.
Villa could now afford to control the game without really breaking a sweat. They looked dangerous coming forward and were tearing Rovers to shreds down their left flank with Michael Gray noticeably off the pace.
Angel continued to torment the Rovers back-line in what has been one of his best displays in a while.
Hughes made a double change on the hour mark, bringing on Sergio Peter and Francis Jeffers for an ineffectual Tugay and disappointed McCarthy. Jeffers almost made an immediate impact but his first touch let him down when he was in a promising position.
Then came the games second bout of controversy. Morten Gamst Pedersen curled a ball into the box only to see Petrov re-direct it with his arm. This went unnoticed by the officials despite Rovers` protests.
Villa then controlled the game until the final whistle to ensure that they returned to winning ways after last weekend`s disappointment.
Mark Hughes will be thoroughly disappointed with another abject showing and with injuries mounting and referees continuing to rule unfavourably towards Rovers, it is hard to see how they will improve their form, especially considering the next side Rovers face will be Manchester United.
He was lively throughout and at least gave the Villa defence something to think about.