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
Kept Rovers in the tie in the first half with saves from Heskey, Agbonlahor, Cuellar and Milner.
Top draw showing from Robbo, shame about those that were actually charged with playing in the outfield.
Lars Jacobsen – 5
Struggled with the Young/Downing axis and didn’t really link well with the world’s most defensive right winger.
Was taken off at half time to spare his blushes.
Chris Samba – 6
Solid enough but didn’t really impose himself on the game as much as he should.
Won the aerial battle with Heskey but he needed to show a bit more decision in the tackle.
Ryan Nelsen – 6
Same as Samba really.
He tried to lead by example but was put under toomuch pressure from the over ran midfield.
Pascal Chimbonda – 7
Best defender on show and when switched to right back made a good attacking effort.
In the second half he grew in confidence – if only it had rubbed off on more around him.
Brett Emerton – 6
Fairly poor in the first half but grew in prominence as the game wore on.
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
Not one of his better games but he did get to grips with Milner and Petrov as he went along.
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
I am not buying him on right wing. He can shift himself about and his movement has made his lack of speed less of an issue.
But his attacking play is non-existent, or any meaningful aspect anyway. Disappointing night.
Morten Gamst Pedersen – 5
Some poor crossing didn’t help his cause and he often struggled to get the better of Cuellar who had a top game.
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
Best outfield player for Rovers in general. His work rate and strength made him a handful and went close with a couple of efforts (the second of which he should have scored with.)
Does look a little short of match fitness but he tried his best to make Sam’s stubborn tactics work.
Nikola Kalinic – 6
Often stranded with nowhere to go up front on his own in the first half and was totally nulified. But the second half confirmed what we all thought we knew.
Nikola Kalinic is the unluckiest man in football.
Martin Olsson – 6
Got skinned by Ashley Young as soon as he came on at left back thankully got better as he went along.
Can at least take credit that he is now a competent player.
Steven Reid – 6
Looking better than Michel Salgado out on the right is not tricky but Reid instantly made Warnock a lot more uncomfortable.
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.
Bought on to add one more body up front and looked to be a menace.
But most things he tried didn’t come off ths time and he often struggled to find space for himself.