Austin Two Good For Villa......
Last night's Monday Night Football saw the R's make another TV appearance as two of the Premier League struggling sides came head to head in what could have almost been labelled as one of those 'must win' games early in the season. Aston Villa came to Loftus Road on the back of a four game losing streak as the R's looked to bounce back from the last minute heartbreak against Liverpool last Sunday. A tense and nervy affair lay ahead of us....
With the evening game meaning that many of us were travelling from work to get to Loftus Road, its was Jess, Sam and Luke that arrived first from their trouble free journeys before Lofty then arrived after having to cross Central London from Dartford. I managed to battle a hefty workload before conquering the M25 and M4 and getting to meet the group for a quick dinner from the fish and chip shop by the ground and a good old fashioned catch up on the wall. Michael graced us with his company for a short while before we all got ourselves in the ground ahead of kick off. Lorna was already in there waiting for us and it wasn't until five minutes before proceedings kicked off that Jenson finally made it after battling through the rush hour from Guildford and completed our line up of the evening.
Two changes were made from last Sunday's defeat against Liverpool as Alex McCarthy and Nedum Onuoha missed out through injury and they were replaced by R's number one Rob Green and Edu Vargas after his brace against Liverpool.
Villa started the game as they always do, fast, quick to close down the midfield and rushing them into sloppy passes before trying to hit on the counter attack. Villa did not allow the R's to settle into much of a rhythm at all and meant we had to revert to playing long to Zamora in hope that he could hold the ball up and get our midfield on the ball and influence the game a lot more. However the visitors organised themselves in such a way that if we did play long to Bobby that they would have Carlos Sanchez and Ron Vlaar doubling up on Zamora and limiting the influence that he was having on the game. It was a very interesting battle that was beginning to unfold in front of us.
It was Villa who had the first effort on target when Westwood fired straight at Green early on.
Rangers' were not getting to grips with Villa's intensity in the middle of the park and continued to stray with their passing, however what was a vast improvement was how quickly our midfield pairing of Sandro and Henry were themselves closing down and limiting the attacking threat that was posed by the pacy front three of Agbonlahor, Weimann and Benteke.
Twenty minutes in we had our first goal of the game.
Dunne played a long ball to Zamora, who had lost Sanchez, chested the ball down into the path of Austin and last season's top scorer sweetly struck the ball with the outside of his foot and saw the ball fly into the bottom corner past Brad Guzan's out-stretched right arm. The Villa 'keeper could've done better it his starting position was better, however it was a cracking hit from twenty five yards by Austin!
The goal injected confidence in the team and drove them on to battle even harder to keep the advantage.
Villa did continue to press, however their lack of efforts on goal meant that the threat was limited during the half and meant the R's went into the interval with the advantage.
We enjoyed the break as it was only the second time this season we have gone into an interval with the lead, ironically it was the R's home win against Sunderland at the end of August that this happened. Guess who scored that goal? You're right, it was that man Charlie Austin! Was history about to repeat itself?
Well if the truth be told it was the visitors who dominated possession in the opening twenty minutes of the second half yet failed to create any telling chances that troubled Rob Green's goal. Only Ciaran Clark's tame volley that bounced wide was worth any note.
With a change needed Redknapp decided to yank off Zamora (Pete's words not mine!) and replace him with Hoilett in an attempt to inject some pace to the team whilst also shoring up the midfield by putting Fer back in a more familiar centre midfield role.
Almost instantly Hoilett made an impact as he run through several Villa defenders before taking aim and curled one towards the far post only to see it hit the outside of the post and going to safety.
After being camped in their own half and being over-run in midfield it was a simple mis-placed pass from the impressive Sanchez that was intercepted by Karl Henry as he then fed Edu Vargas which allowed him to run into acres of space down the R's right before reaching the eighteen box and spotting Austin's run to the front post and putting in an inch perfect cross for the R's number nine, who managed to beat Vlaar and expertly slot home from eight yards!! If Austin gets that service throughout this year then he can easily hit fifteen or more goals this season as that is his bread and butter.
Rangers' should have made it three when Hoilett's delightful ball over the top found the impressive Vargas but the Chilean was denied by Guzan when his flick was blocked by the American stopper.
Villa had a chance to grab a consolation when Cleverley's effort was parried by Green into the path of Clark, who looked certain to score from six yards out, however Sandro's fantastic tackle partially blocked the follow up and Green was on hand to make the final save.
Overall it was great to see the R's pick up a much needed three points, however had Villa been better in the attacking third then it may of been a different story. They certainly looked to be well out of sorts, however despite their lack of form and inability to score a strong and loud Villa following came to Loftus Road to pack out the away end, which on a Monday night TV game was quite impressive, or maybe I'm easily pleased?
There were many great performances out there tonight with Dunne taking complete care of Benteke all night, I think he's still in Dunne's back pocket. Yun was fantastic all night and did not put a foot wrong. He knew when to venture forward and put in countless interceptions throughout the evening. Austin is an obvious choice, the match winner and he works extremely hard, he got his rewards for this last night! Vargas is another one you cannot ignore. He has a great understanding with Isla and the pair work very well together down the right hand side. Vargas also has that instinct in the final third and was unlucky to not get the goal his performance deserved.
Saying all that, it's Man of the Match time.
Jenson's vote went to Green as Lofty picked out Dunne's superb showing. Jess went for Austin, I was impressed with Yun all evening. However with votes from Sam, Luke and Lorna our winner last night was Edu Vargas.
Lofty will return on Saturday as the R's travel down the road to South-West London and Stamford Bridge to take on those scumbags who I need not mention!
Let's hope we can put in another great performance and hopefully some lady luck will be on our side!