February 27, 2009
Martin O'Neill got his tactics exactly right. Instead of making an arrogant attempt to win a European competition with a threadbare squad, the Aston Villa manager left eight regulars at home for the club's UEFA Cup Round of 32 second-leg in Moscow on Thursday.
While the strategy cost his side thier place in the competition, it consolidated Villa's prospects in the Premier League. It really wasn't a difficult decision at all. Each of Gabriel Agbonlahor, Gareth Barry, Carlos Cuellar, Brad Friedel, Emile Heskey, James Milner, Stiliyan Petrov and Ashley Young will now be fit and fresh for the visit of Stoke City on Sunday and the trip to Eastlands on Wednesday.
February 19, 2009
John Carew’s 69th minute equalizer sends Aston Villa to Moscow with an outside chance of progressing in the UEFA Cup. The big 29-year-old cancelled Vagner Love’s opener after he ran onto Craig Gardener’s pass following some good work from Gareth Barry.
Visiting CSKA Moscow were fortunate to hang on in the end, as the hosts missed a hatful of chances in the closing moments.
February 18, 2009
Aston Villa’s Champions’ League ambitions were bolstered, Sunday, when Everton knocked them out of the FA Cup at Goodison Park. Leading fifth-place Arsenal by seven points with 13 Premier League rounds to play, the last thing Villa needed was an additional competition to extend an already threadbare squad. Had they defeated Everton, they would have added an eighth match to an already jam-packed three-week period.
That said, it’s never nice to be eliminated from anything, no matter the competition. But given that Sunday’s substitutes included Shane Lowry, Nathan Delfouneso, Moustapha Salifou and Marc Albrighton, Martin O’Neill won’t be losing any sleep over the Wembley trip that might have been.