Friday 15 December 2017

McLeish winning over Villa faithful

David Lacey

Alex McLeish was able to savour the applause of the Villa Park crowd at the end of a convincing first home victory as manager. Goals from Gabriel Agbonlahor, Emile Heskey and Darren Bent also gave McLeish his first Premier League win over a fellow Scot in charge at his 12th attempt.

For opposite number, Blackburn Rovers' Steve Kean, it has been an eight days to forget, with back-to-back losses sandwiching a court appearance in which he was banned from driving for 18 months for drink driving.

McLeish was given a good reception by the Villa fans as he made his way to the dugout, in stark contrast to the bitter animosity that had greeted his appointment two months ago due to his previous allegiance with Birmingham City.

After a slow start McLeish was on his feet, along with the rest of Villa Park, in the 12th minute after watching his side score their first goal of the season. Attacking from the left, Gabriel Agbonlahor conjured a stunning right-foot angled curling shot beyond the goalkeeper Paul Robinson from 15 yards.

Robinson was beaten again in the 25th minute by a low shot from Emile Heskey after being teed up by Agbonlahor.

It should have been 3-0 in the 34th minute, but after being given a clear sight of goal courtesy of a ball played into his feet from Darren Bent, Heskey's first touch was hideous, allowing Ryan Nelsen to clear.

McLeish was forced to make a change at half-time, losing Agbonlahor to a knock, with Marc Albrighton on as replacement.

Seven minutes after the restart, and from nowhere, Rovers hauled themselves back into contention with a classy goal. Neat footwork from David Hoilett down the left wing, in which he evaded two tackles, eventually took him into a position to deliver a piercing cross. Stealing in between centre-backs Richard Dunne and James Collins, Morten Gamst Pedersen planted a powerful header past Shay Given from six yards.

With Villa having lost their way a little, Albrighton was inches away from restoring the two-goal cushion, his low 22-yard effort shaving the right-hand post. But on 77 minutes Villa made it 3-1, with Bent rifling in from 10 yards past Robinson after Grant Hanley had blocked captain Stiliyan Petrov's speculative shot. The closing stages were then a breeze for Villa as they were never troubled other than a dipping Martin Olsson free-kick that just cleared the bar.


Irish Independent Sport Star Awards

Pick our magic sports moment of the year and win a trip for two to London. To view the shortlist and cast your vote click here.

Sunday Indo Sport

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport