By Tim Hodges
Aston Villa 3 – Brighton and Hove Albion 2
The Albion lost their big game of the season away at a near capacity Villa Park.
There was no room for sentiment, as lifelong Villa fan and Albion full back Andrew Whing was not selected for the match day squad by Gus Poyet.
Within a minute of the kick off Michel Kuipers was forced to parry a fierce strike from Ashley Young.
Soon after the aptly named Albrighton wrong footed Albion’s Jimmy McNulty and swept in a cross from the left which Delfouneso converted past an already overworked Kuipers.
Now 1-0 down the Seagulls attempted to try and control the midfield with Navarro, Crofts and Forster exchanging a flurry of passes. Although an attacking move was easily dealt with by Villa’s towering Collins. As they had been throughout the pre match build up, Albion’s 6,000 plus fans, responded by roaring their team forward. Kuipers took a few crosses well under pressure, and held and angled shot from Delph. James Milner who had replaced the injured Albrighton was finding his way around the Albion defensive cover but surprisingly with no real final penetration.
As Brighton grew in confidence they used the outlet to Bennett more and more. Murray had a volley flash a little further past the post than he hoped, and Forster panicked when saw the whites of the posts and the claret and blue defenders behind him. His strike almost went out for a throw in.
The Albion won a corner with a few minutes of the half remaining, a poor effort from Bennett was knocked out for a second consecutive one, almost a retake, from the Wolverhampton born youngster.
This time Bennett beat the first defender and Brighton born Tommy Elphick swung a leg to send the Sussex faithful at the other end of the pitch into delirium, and not undeservedly restore parity.
Suddenly the two managers’ half-time team talks were being rewritten. Villa’s Martin O’Neill looking the more animated, as he hurried along the touchline for the break.
As the many Albion fans trudged back through the expanse of the upper north stand with their chicken balti pies and overpriced soft drinks, Milner twisted past Albion’s Spanish full back Calderon, and knocked a short past to Downing. He put in a delicious cross that Ashley Young managed to get in front of McNulty to head in for 2-1.
Delph was then involved at every juncture and forced Kuipers into a superb point blank save. Soon after the same player hit the post with a curling shot from the edge of the penalty area.
Then Milner was at it again as Villa started to dominate but Kuipers claimed his cross. Villa tried their luck down the right and Ashley Young released Delph to finally stroke the ball home and seemingly kill off the tie.
Poyet responded with a flurry of substitutions Carole and Dickinson replaced Bennett and Dicker followed a few minutes later by Cox with Navarro making way.
Villa now seemed to be in control with the foot firmly off the gas. Murray had a half chance from a tight angle and Albion won a few corners but couldn’t penetrate the six-yard box.
Then with Virgo pushing into a more midfield position and with Villa suddenly becoming unnerved at Albion’s sudden increased possession, Jimmy McNulty crossed from the Albion right for Forster to control, turn and shoot past Guzan for Albion’s second.
The score board then flashed up 4 minutes of added time which was quickly changed to 3 minutes.
Liam Dickinson tried in vain to win the ball in midfield and create Albion’s third prong in attack.
Caldron and Kuipers both lumped speculative balls forward for the front players to fight for.
But it was Adam Virgo who after intercepting a desperate Villa clearance, overhit a pass to a well-positioned Glenn Murray.
With the Albion about to take a throw in, the man in traditional black Mr Taylor ended Albion’s cup run.
A fine effort, even if the score line flattered Albion just a little.
Kuipers, Calderon, McNulty, Virgo, Elphick, Bennett, Navarro, Dicker, Crofts, Murray, Forster- Subs: Cox, Hart, Dickinson, Brevovan, Hoyte, Tunnicliffe, Carole.
Guzan, Luke Young, Beye, Collins, Warnock, Sidwell, Delph, Albrighton, Ashley Young, Downing, Delfouneso.- Subs: Friedel, Milner, Agbonlahor, Davies, Petrov, Lowry, Clark.
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