A comfortable home win against a disjointed Blackburn side is probably welcome relief for new boss Alex McLeish. After a warm reception from all corners of the ground, he took his seat and watched as Villa eased to a two goal advantage in a little over half an hour. Because being Villa boss is always this stress free.
The game was a slow burner, the opening ten minutes being easily forgettable and Blackburn looking like the earliest away side to settle for a draw in history. They soon found themselves a goal behind however. Agbonlahor looked incredibly lively and appears to have grown into some of the bulk acquired from too many hours in the gym. But this could be the season it pays off, with his strong physique, ample pace and eye for goal. Gabby reminded everyone why he can be such a dangerous player with a superb run and curled finished high into Robinsons net.
Villa used this as their momentum and played the next quarter of an hour in a more relaxed fashion. Blackburn did little to counter this and suffered the consequences as Heskey guided home a shot when given time and sight of goal. The big man could have even had a second had his touch not been so heavy when fed by Bent later in the half. Villa had seized upon Rovers ineptitude and punished them for their lack of adventure. This, for a Villa fan, is a new feeling.
The rest of the half produced only one further talking point which saw Villa denied a penalty and Agbonlahor withdrawn through an injury at the break. With the ball looping high in the box Gabby was clattered as he sought to shield the dropping cross. The referee saw this, bizarrely, as the Villa striker having impeded the flapping Robinson and gave the free kick accordingly. This left Villa without a deserved spot kick and ultimately their liveliest player.
After the break Villa replaced the injured Agbonlahor with Albrighton and soon saw Luke Young withdrawn due to a knock for Ciaran Clark. Albrighton, a talent he might be, still has much to learn. Blackburn probed for a way back into the encounter and their midfield ghosted with ease through our own. Albrighton was guilty of being lighter than the very air around him as he barely made a challenge, the subsequent whipped ball was headed home by the never ageing Morten Gamst Pederson.
Villa frowned a bit, Given had a sit and Warnock picked himself up. And pleasingly just got on with it. There was no fight back from Blackburn as Villa went in search of the goal to seal the match. This came when Bent was gifted an opportunity after Rovers’ fumbling centre half was unable to control. Bent, on his weaker left foot, had the poise to steady himself before lashing home from 8 yards past the hapless Robinson. Three strikers scoring, three goals and three points, very nice indeed.
The game drifted thereafter as Villa protected their lead and little of note occurred. Positives included the tireless N’Zogbia, whose runs were powerful and kept Blackburn second guessing all day. Delph, who whilst sometimes reckless in the challenge looks an exceptionally well rounded footballer. And the back line, although disturbed through enforced changes, was largely untroubled. Dunne looked more like the solid force we knock and Warnocks tackling brought some grit to our back line.
In closing, a fine Villa win. McLeish should be commended for putting out a side to do an efficient job, making changes that restored order rather than baffled and for putting Villa at the summit of the Premier League. The latter should obviously not be focused on too much. In all, as fans, this is exactly what we want. Steady, thoughtful performances, with good goals and a team that appears to have regained the art of defending.
Up next, Hereford. Roll on Tuesday.