At least no one got broken, right? (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Yeah...tell us something we don't know, already.
It's always painful for supporters to watch Aston Villa lose. It's more painful to watch them lose out on a chance at Europa League group play. But most painful of all? Watching Villa lose out on Europa in almost the exact same manner as they lost out last season.
Last season, Ashley Young missed a penalty that, had he converted, would have sent Villa through to the group stages. This year, it was Stiliyan Petrov missing the penalty. Now, the situation was, of course, distinct. Petrov took a good penalty, but the Rapid keeper guessed correctly. The problem is that somehow, even with what seemed like twenty people standing around in the box, Emile Heskey charged forth and managed to send it over the goal.
What was different yesterday was that Emile Heskey scored--yes, you read that correctly, Emile Heskey scored--within just a few minutes, giving the lead to the Villa. I'm still shaking my head over it, and so is he, probably, considering how surprised he looked when it happened.
That goal was the worst thing that could've happened to Aston Villa.
Less than a minute later, Rapid Vienna had equalized on a headed goal. And, of course, racked up one more away goal.The defending was absolutely atrocious. I'd say nonexistent, but the defenders were there, just...not defending. Guzan takes some of the blame for this as well, as he couldn't control the ball and let it bounce out of his arm and over the line. Three minutes later and Rapid had another goal.
You want someone to blame? Go ahead and blame the defense. James Collins looked out of sorts. I think--I hope--that this is simply a result of some rust, with him being out so long. Carlos Cuellar looked fine, except for being played at right-back, but had no glaring errors. Curtis Davies makes an acceptable second-to-third string center back, but he shouldn't have been griping about Martin O'Neill never playing him. It was Habib Beye, however, who earns the most of my wrath. After his last match, I was already cursing him for being out of position. Now here he is again, looking as though he has no clue where to play, no idea how to win the ball, no reason to be on the team except to slot in a pass to Emile Heskey that amazingly went on to become a goal. We went into a match against an attacking side playing our third-choice left back, and failed miserably.
What's weird about this season is that I've lost faith in the defense but I have no qualms about our attacking players. Granted, we haven't seen a solid defensive lineup since the season started. But after last season, when it seemed that there was no reason to believe that any ball touched would ever find its way into the net, it's nice to see some moments of brilliance. Villa's first goal yesterday was one of those. Ashley Young sent a gorgeous cross through to Gabriel Agbonlahor, which barely needed a tap to fall into the net. It was a picture-perfect reminder of why those two work wonders together.
My fingers are crossed that Gabs picked up little more than a knock yesterday. I want to see him playing up front, with Ash roving around behind him (hands off, you dirty Spuds). Marc Albrighton was back to his promising self yesterday, and no complaints about Stephen Ireland, either. As much as I enjoy a good panic attack, I think once our defense gels, there won't be much reason to worry.
Eh, who am I kidding? I'll still be hyperventilating.