Monday 23 April 2018

Houllier pays for tinkering

Man City 3
Aston Villa 0

Mark Ogden

Gerard Houllier eased Manchester City's path to a quarter-final with Reading by resting key players -- as Aston Villa's hopes of silverware evaporated at Eastlands.

Villa manager Houllier made eight changes from the team which beat Blackburn 4-1 at the weekend.

And he was made to pay for his selection gamble as goals from Yaya Toure, Mario Balotelli and David Silva secured City's first appearance in the last eight of this competition since 2007. Having won the FA Cup with Liverpool in 2001, Houllier has shown scant regard for the competition.

Villa's recent resurgence in the league, where they sit in 12th, five points clear of the relegation zone, would suggest fears for Premier League survival have diminished. So, Houllier's decision to field an experimental team, with midfielder Fabian Delph at left-back, appeared random to say the least. Do Villa no longer regard the FA Cup as a trophy worth adding to their dormant honours list? Is a mid-table finish in the League now a greater target?

Having seen Birmingham City lift their first major trophy in 48 years with the Carling Cup on Sunday, surely Villa now had added motivation to stretch every sinew to outdo their second-city rivals.

But it became clear within 25 minutes that Villa would not be offering their supporters a day out at Wembley. With just five minutes on the clock, Villa had fallen behind after City capitalised on defensive naivety to score through Yaya Toure.

Villa's failure to deal with Aleksandar Kolarov's outswinging corner enabled Patrick Vieira to flick the ball into the six-yard box. Ciaran Clark was unable to clear, leaving Toure free to score from close range.

And City had one foot in the quarter-finals by half-time following Mario Balotelli's strike on 25 minutes -- his finish from Toure's clipped pass was the mark of a natural goalscorer.

Villa were able to keep City at bay in the second half until Silva made the game safe on 70 minutes.(© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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