Valencia vs Aston Villa
In a Word
The Carter Report
By Rob Carter
Perfect blue skies met the Aston Villa team coach as it approached Valencia’s historic Mestalla stadium, as did a frenzy of both Valencia & Villa fans, waiting to catch a glimpse of, amongst others, the world’s best goalkeeper.
The climb up the steps to our position in the away section really ought to have come equipped with oxygen masks; 29 degrees at kick off (local time 9pm) and some pre-match liquid refreshments made the ascent extremely challenging.
But what a view greeted us – at the very top of the towering stand behind the goal, a magnificent vista unfurled itself.
The mood was buoyant for Villa’s last game of pre-season; could the team deliver?
The starting line-up looked strong, with new boys Moussa Diaby and Pau Torres amongst the XI. Villa dominated possession from the off, looking comfortable on the ball and threatening in the offensive third. The first goal was not long in coming, Ollie Watkins capitalising on a defensive error to sweep the ball first time past the home goalkeeper.
The rest of the first half was an even affair, with the hosts keeping the ball a little better, but rarely threatening the Villa goal.
Lucas Digne and Emi Buendia replaced Torres & the ineffective Leon Bailey at the break, and it wasn’t long before the diminutive Argentine made a difference, lashing home a delightful first time effort after excellent work from another substitute, forgotten man Philippe Coutinho, who had replaced Moussa Diaby.
Another substitute, Cameron Archer (on for Watkins), showed pace & power by scything through the home defence and hitting the goalkeeper when in a good position.
Despite gifting the Spanish side a goal on 88 minutes, with the unfortunate Calum Chambers heading past Emi Martinez, this was a comfortable night’s work for Villa. The standout performances were from Matty Cash, Boubacar Kamara and, surprisingly, Coutinho. The new boys did ok – Torres looked solid, and Youri Tielemans came on and held onto the ball really well. As for Diaby, there will be better nights to come for the Frenchman; he was at times hesitant on the ball and did not look totally comfortable.
The final whistle was greeted by jubilant scenes in the Villa end, with many staying behind to see the team lift the ‘Orange Trophy’ (which looked more like a piece of giant office stationery).
The descent down the steps into the Valencia night was filled with the sounds of the away fans signing ‘Orange Cup Champions, you’ll never sing that’ to nobody in particular.
On the back of a good transfer window, and an unbeaten pre-season, expectations for the new campaign are high. The only negatives are perhaps the lack of a decent back up goalkeeper and another striker to cover Watkins.