Boy. That was not worth the wait.
I can’t even remember the first half, and I was there for it, apparently. I may have blacked out through boredom. What I do remember is Air Belgium via Chicago. What that means is a lot of balls were played long and high from Goalkeeper Guzan to forward Benteke, with little else going on. There were little spells in the first half in which they promised much, but nothing really of note, and I struggle to remember a single shot in the first half. Anyway, Newcastle scored mid-way through the first, when Villa failed to deal with a low cross and the initial shot was parried by Guzan and the follow up dispatched. It was 1-0 at half time much to the relief of probably everyone. It was good that it finished and would give a chance to regroup and come out fighting in the second half. Well not fighting, but with fight in them. They at this point looked like a team who had three weeks off, and that it was a pre-season friendly they were taking part in.
Suddenly, the fans got really loud, and you’ll not be surprised to hear, that a former Villa player was riding around the perimeter of the pitch to promote his recent charity bike ride, one Steve Staunton. This passed and the players returned from their half time roasting, I would presume.
The second half began and Villa, apparently decided that to play football, meant playing the ball along the ground, and looked really dangerous in doing so. They created a few half chances, and 2 chances, which should have been converted, and had that happened, it would have been a rout. Eventually, an equaliser! A well won corner, crossed in from Westwood, converted by the Belgian Tank beast, Christian Benteke. 1-1 ! (Obviously, you all knew that).
Suddenly Villa though, let’s go over the top again, with the oh so familiar tactic, called by everyone sitting around me, before it was happening, Guzan to Benteke aerial passes. It would be fine had it been an NFL game, as I doubt anyone could out jump Benteke, but it isn’t so Benteke was able to win the headers, but there was nobody near him for the link up, so wasteful play. Also, very shortly after the equaliser, Newcastle scored again, after some suspect defending. 2-1 to the visitors, and literally, change after change happened, with the new signing Kozak coming on just before the equaliser, and with 3 minutes to go , Tonev, the promising , creative winger. Why PL waited until there were only 3 minutes left, is beyond me, as I feel that had he made that change, when Villa were dominating shortly before equalising, it would have helped to open the game up more, and would have seen Villa take all 3 points, there is no question in my mind about that.
If you unleash a dangerous Tonev down the left, the pace of Agbonlahor down the right (which is where he should be, not down the middle, as he tended to drift for the majority of the game) with Weimann anonymous, largely by part of the tendency to go through the air. If I was given the opportunity to pick the next starting lineup which would be against Norwich City away, I would have it look like this :
Guzan, Vlaar, Clark (As Okore picked up a knock), [It has since emerged that Okore is likely to miss 9 months and will need surgery to repair the ACL]. Luna, Lowton, Sylla, Westwood, Delph, Tonev , Helenius and Kozak in a 4-4-2 . I feel this would keep things fresh, and would give a look to a formation that should be utilised at home as playing counter attacking football is fine, but is more useful on the road. Personally, if all teams are now targeting Benteke and marking him 2 or 3 men at a time, it would probably confuse them if Benteke isn’t starting and would prove that the team isn’t one dimensional.
I do believe in the football Lambert wants the team to play, and it is certainly (for the most part) better to watch then under Alex McLeish. Although at times I am baffled as to what is going on out there, for the most part, I’m at least enjoying being part of the Holte End. I can’t do it forever though, so I’ll savour the moments in which I can do it.