Villa keep hopes of fourth alive
Aston Villa 2
ON the day that planes finally took to the skies again, Hull City looked only down.
Deservedly defeated by Aston Villa, whose goalscorers Gabriel Agbonlahor and James Milner were exceptional throughout, Hull were deeply disappointing, lacking in commitment and intelligence for long periods.
Hull's supporters deserved better than this weak offering by the players and some negative tactics from Iain Dowie, who was treated to brief chants of "you don't know what you're doing" on taking off Tom Cairney.
"You should have kept Phil Brown," chanted the Villa fans, also revelling in the sight of their team not giving up hope of fourth. West Ham, in 17th, will also have enjoyed Hull's travails.
Dowie's cautious game-plan had been shredded within 13 minutes, Villa's more adventurous approach rewarded through Agbonlahor's clinical finish past Matt Duke.
If the goal encapsulated much of the young Villa forward's power and verve, it also highlighted the chaos in Hull's defence, a unit all Duke and hazards. Here was defending as practised by Barnum and Bailey. Steven Mouyokolo's attempted headed clearance was shocking, the ball bouncing into Ashley Young and running into the box. Paul McShane's clearance clattered into John Carew and carried on to Agbonlahor, whose finish was exceptional.
Even in an unpredictable season of beach-balls, volcanoes and administrators, Hull's failure to score midway through the half defied belief. Released by Kevin Kilbane, Vennegoor of Hesselink ran through one-on- one with Brad Friedel, but was denied by the American.
Still Hull had a chance, the ball falling to Kilbane, whose shot was somehow saved by Friedel. Still Hull should have scored, the ball again rebounding back to Kilbane. With the whole goal at his mercy, he placed his effort directly at James Collins on the line and the ball bounced safely away, leaving Hull players and fans alike shaking their in disbelief.
Villa appeared rattled. Frustration ate away at Stiliyan Petrov, who caught Bullard with a nasty, late challenge from behind which drew a booking off Mike Dean.
With Bullard influential, Hull raced about chasing the equaliser. When Fagan flicked the ball on, Vennegoor of Hesselink was through on goal until Richard Dunne moved sharply to sweep up.
Hull's defending remained a concern as Carew charged impressively through the middle before slipping the ball right to Milner, who checked inside George Boateng and was promptly brought down.
Milner's cool penalty, his 11th goal of the season, provided another reason why England will take him to the World Cup. (© Daily Telegraph, London)