Brad Friedel gets a rare start in the Carling Cup, helping Aston Villa beat Burnley 2-1 in added extra time. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Aston Villa decided to put every one of its supporters on a roller coaster ride of doom today, needing 120 minutes at Villa Park to see off Championship side Burnley, 2-1. The Villa faithful went from quietly confident to fretfully nervous to gleefully ecstatic to exceedingly frustrated back to gleefully ecstatic to pure anger. In the end, the team and the fans were happy, but at the expense of the health of many.
I'm not going to pretend that I was able to watch the match, as there was no way to find a live stream. But between live text updates, Twitter messages and 7500's commentary, the general picture of the match can be painted. Using a 4-6-0 or 4-1-5 (doesn't really matter how you slice it, Villa didn't have a traditional striker on the pitch) the home side went on the attack early, and once again created chance after chance. Now if the team could just learn to actually get the ball in the net, that would be a positive.
In positive news, Stephen Ireland had the best chance of the first half. In not-so-positive news, new captain Nigel Reo-Coker missed an absolute sitter. Then on to the second half when Burnley really came alive, forcing quite a few saves from Brad Friedel, which perhaps was why Gerard Houllier chose Brad 1.0 over Brad Guzan. Somehow, though, miracles occurred again when substitute Emile Heskey knocked in a ball from Ashley Young. But just minutes later, Clarke Carlisle equalized for Burnley, beating the Villa defense (which included no regular starters) with a low header.
And on into extra time went Aston Villa, in a neat reverse parallel of Tuesday's match of rivals Birmingham City. Fortunately, Villa didn't need to push the game to penalty kicks, although to be fair they tried their very best. The team pulled ahead when Stewart Downing-who completely missed the target when subbed on at the end of the second half-used his left foot to sink the ball in from twenty yards out. Burnley, desperate to equalize again, threatened at the edge of the area, terrifying poor little Marc Albrighton. As we've stated again and again, Albrighton is not sharp with the defending. Scared to lose his chance to go to Wembley, Albrighton pushed over substitute Wade Elliott, earning himself a straight red. Which I guess saves Houllier a selection headache.
So once again, Aston Villa managed to just squeeze through to the next round of the Carling Cup. Remember last year, when we let Blackburn take a two goal lead? That was fun. Penalty shootout at Sunderland? Also a blast. Just our luck, the next round will involve meeting Birmingham City.