Lambert suffers poetic justice as awful Villa dumped out by Blades
Aston Villa 1 Sheffield Utd 2
It was hard to escape the feeling that Paul Lambert got exactly what he wished for in the end. Having described the FA Cup as a competition Premier League clubs could do without, the Aston Villa manager watched his side dumped out in humiliating fashion by League One Sheffield United.
Boos are fast becoming the soundtrack that accompanies the final whistle at this stadium. Ryan Flynn's superb goal nine minutes from time gave Sheffield United, who are 18th in the third tier and a point off the relegation zone, a famous victory in front of 6,000 travelling supporters.
Although Villa had equalised in the 75th minute, when Nicklas Helenius cancelled out Jamie Murphy's early strike, it was in keeping with a dismal performance from the Premier League club that they were unable to prevent Nigel Clough's team from scoring again. For Lambert, the walk from the dugout to the tunnel at the end of the game, when fans were venting their anger, and in some cases tearing up their tickets and throwing them at him, must have been a chastening experience.
Villa supporters have suffered more than enough at home this season -- they have been defeated in six of their 10 Premier League games and won just twice -- but losing to a struggling League One team who were beaten 2-1 at Walsall on New Year's Day plumbed new depths.
After whipping up a storm with his comments about the FA Cup in the lead-up to this game, sympathy will be in short supply for Lambert. He claimed that he "never demeaned the competition one bit", but there was no denying that he had given the impression the FA Cup had little importance.
Those words provoked anger among some Villa supporters and came back to haunt Lambert. Huge credit to Sheffield United. This was not one of those old-fashioned smash-and-grab victories by a lower-league club against top-flight opposition. Clough's side played with energy, courage and belief and fully deserved the win.
Murphy had given United a great start when he put them ahead in the 19th minute after some awful defending. Cutting in from the left, the former Motherwell winger beat Matthew Lowton far too easily before drilling a right-footed shot that deflected off Ciaran Clark to leave Jed Steer stranded.
Villa struggled to create anything of note until the end of the first half, when Christian Benteke squandered two great opportunities. If the first of those chances, which Benteke headed off target from a Marc Albrighton cross, was a bad miss, the second was an absolute sitter.
Once again Albrighton was the provider, the winger's deep centre picking out the unmarked Benteke at the far post. No more than six yards out, with the goal at his mercy, Benteke headed the ball into the ground and wide.
There was no improvement from Villa in the second half and it was difficult to see where a goal was coming from, but Helenius came off the bench to open his account for the club when he drilled a low shot beyond 'keeper George Long.
The theory that there would only be one winner from that point was blown out of the water six minutes later when Flynn cut inside and curled a glorious left-foot shot past Steer and high into the net. Cue pandemonium among the United fans.