BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - West Ham United prove the only tactical maneuver they possess is that of pulling on shirts, as demonstrated by Julien Faubert on Marc Albrighton (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Truthfully, I was just so excited with the hammering Aston Villa gave to West Ham that the details are blurring in my mind. Today started at 4:45 am, watching Spurs trample all over Manchester City for a half, with only Joe Hart keeping the scoreline from being something like 5-0. City came back in the second half to hang on for a draw, but really only got a couple shots in.
And then came the Villa--and with them came the first goal of the Premier League. Stewart Downing, determined to silence last season's critics, came onto the pitch determined to find a goal. Just fifteen minutes in, Stewie found a hilarious chance: Young crossed the ball, Robert Green came out to punch, and the rebound fell to Marc Albrighton. Albrighton took a chance, Green punched again, putting the ball at Downing's feet. Downing neatly tapped it in and the Villa faithful went wild.
The next goal gave supporters reason to celebrate our captain, as Stiliyan Petrov took advantage of Ashley Young's excellent cross and headed the ball into the net. 2-0 to the Villa in the 40th minute, with Brad Friedel needing to jump to action only once.
One of the more entertaining moments came on a bit of a flub from John Carew. Green came out to meet the forward and when Carew tried to go around him, but pushed the ball to James Tomkins, who managed to hit the post. His own post.
West Ham seemed to come alive in the first few minutes of the second half, or perhaps their powers were triggered by the thunder and lightening. But they only managed possession for about fifteen minutes before Villa regained domination.
In the 66th, it was all about the man that's set so many tongues a-waggin' recently. Marc Albrighton, who was spot-on all match, sent a lovely ball into James Milner, who positively smacked it into the back of the net. He didn't celebrate much (choosing to take the classy route and give the credit to Albrighton) but Villa Park erupted, and they gave him a standing ovation when he left the pitch soon after, being replaced by Nigel Reo-Coker. If that was his Villa swan song, I'll take it.
Marc Albrighton: While Stewart Downing won the Man of the Match, the Villa supporters were singing the praises of Albrighton, who is no longer a secret to the rest of the world. Our young winger set the pitch on fire, positively dominating the West Ham defense. Nothing bad I can say about his performance, really.
Kevin MacDonald: Villa's caretaker manager is taking chances on the young players. Ciaran Clark got the start, pairing with Richard Dunne in the middle of the back. When Ash came off, he was replaced by Andreas Weimann, and Barry Bannan took the place of Albrighton. Although he needs to take a couple lessons from him.
The Uh Oh:
Ashley Young: Nothing uh-oh in his play, as having him behind John Carew certainly took nothing away from his ability to take the ball out wide and send in dangerous crosses. But taken out on a cynical foul (no idea who it was, sorry, I was too busy yelling) that didn't even see a card, as the ref was too busy carding another foul on Carew, Young apparently strained his hamstring, leaving him limping on the pitch and eventually subbed with ten minutes to go. Ashley Young is the best player on Villa's pitch, and having him hurt would not help this squad in any way.
John Carew: Where was his head today? Not flicking the ball in the right direction, that much I can tell you. The Norwegian flubbed quite a few chances on goal, leading many to wonder if he's been sitting too close to Emile Heskey in the lunchroom. Get better, Gabby.
But overall, a great start for the Villa and an indication that the squad isn't being hampered by the disappearance of Martin O'Neill. Obviously it's just one game, but we've got one in the middle of the week that's sure to tell us a bit more.