Rating the Aston Villa Players in 2-0 Win over Shamrock Rovers
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Aston Villa continued on their fine scoring run and made it two clean sheets from two games—a rarity in comparison with last season’s disappointing campaign—in their 2-0 win over the Shamrock Rovers in Dublin.
Strikers Andreas Weimann and Christian Benteke, who Aston Villa recently confirmed had signed a bumper deal which will keep him at the club until 2017, both found the back of the net in a game that Villa manager Paul Lambert described as "a fine workout."
More important than the result for Lambert was the return of recent acquisitions Aleksandar Tonev and Jores Okore who had spent a sizeable portion of the preseason on the sideline as they both recovered from injury.
Weimann opened the scoring before Villa’s leading goalscorer of last season, Benteke, got on the score sheet, converting Matt Lowton’s devilish cross with an acrobatic header.
Here are the ratings for the Villa players who played for more than 20 minutes.
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Brad Guzan 7/10
As expected, Villa controlled large portions of the game with Guzan a spectator in parts due to the solid work of the four in front of him. The American keeper, who claimed the No. 1 spot last season—condemning Shay Given to the bench—looked solid when called upon; rushing off his line to clear the danger and looking comfortable when coming for the ball. Two thunderous drives from Shamrock’s Sean O’Connor did have the keeper rooted to the spot, but the ball flew narrowly wide on both occasions.
Matthew Lowton 8/10
This was another solid game from Lowton, who impressed during his first campaign in the Premier League. The former Sheffield United man overlapped well—a feature of his debut 2012-13 season in England’s top flight—creating a number of chances from the flank. An incisive cross from the right set up Villa’s second goal as he found the head of Benteke.
Ron Vlaar 7/10
Fans witnessed a commanding performance from the Dutchman as he organized his troops, contributing largely to Guzan’s quiet afternoon. Villa’s captain showed willingness to get forward when the opportunity presented itself and took on a couple of long-range efforts that failed to test the Rovers’ custodian.
Nathan Baker 6/10
Playing alongside Vlaar in the opening 45 before shifting to left-back in the second half, Nathan Baker enjoyed a steady game as the youngster continues to improve in Villa’s back-four. The highlight of the defender’s afternoon came on the hour after a clever Shamrock free kick required an excellent defensive header to deny Jason McGuiness.
Antonio Luna 7/10
The Spaniard may have only got 45 minutes under his belt but did enough to impress Paul Lambert in the Villa dugout. The left-back got forward early on and almost found the back of the net with a well-struck shot that called for Shamrock keeper Barry Murphy to tip the ball smartly around the post.
Karim El Ahmadi 6/10
It was a relatively quiet game for El Ahmadi in the centre of the Villa midfield. The Moroccan was, as ever, busy as he linked play between the defence and those in front of him, but didn’t shine as he tends to do with the ball and was subsequently replaced at half-time.
Ashley Westwood 7/10
Westwood was given another good run out, playing 75 minutes before being replaced by Yacouba Sylla. The all-action midfielder ran himself into the ground, hurrying and harrying the home side, always eager to win the ball back. A superb cross into the box for substitute Jores Okore could have put the icing on the cake to a hard-working performance for the youngster.
Gabriel Agbonlahor 8/10
The pacy forward, who has had to adjust to life on the left wing, put in another performance that saw him feature heavily for Villa in their struggle for survival last season. The fan favourite pulled away from his marker in the box in the opening minutes, only for a brilliant Connor McCormack block to deny ‘Gabby.’ The one-club-man should have got on the score sheet as the game progressed, however, as he raced into the box before dragging his shot across goal.
Aleksandar Tonev 7/10
Tonev came through a challenging 45 minutes as the Bulgarian is still recovering from an injury. He occasionally swapped flanks with Agbonlahor as the pair looked to provide a different challenge to the Shamrock full-backs. In his first-half stint, the winger looked comfortable playing alongside his new teammates and saw a rasping right-footed effort curl narrowly around the post.
Christian Benteke 9/10
Keeping hold of the Belgian international could well prove to be Paul Lambert’s best bit of business this summer. Benteke virtually saved Villa from relegation with his impressive goal tally last season and will look to improve upon that ahead of the new campaign. Villa opened the scoring as Benteke chased down a ball, stealing it from the grasp of goalkeeper Barry Murphy who had raced off his line. Showing his visual awareness the striker simply rolled the ball across to Weimann who tapped in from close range. And his day was capped off as he bravely converted Lowton’s super cross.
Andreas Weimann 8/10
Coming off the back of an impressive season for the Villans in which they struggled, young Austrian Weimann is keen to keep his place in the side and will have done himself no harm with a solid 90 minutes. A busy afternoon saw Weimann test the home side’s goalkeeper on a number of occasions without causing too much threat. He linked up well with Agbonlahor down the wing and the two combined superbly minutes before the break as Weimann drilled a shot narrowly over the bar. He did get on the scoresheet, finding space in the box to control Benteke’s pass before rolling the ball into the back of the net.
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Jores Okore 7/10
Okore was another one who returned from injury. The young Dane was given a huge greeting by the travelling Villa fans as he replaced Antonio Luna at half-time. The bullish centre-half impressed for Nordsjaelland in the Champions League last season with solid performances against Chelsea and the like and, despite just returning from injury, Okore played with the same tenacity. With Baker shifted over to left-back, Okore was dominant in the air and should feature heavily alongside Vlaar throughout next season.
Ciaran Clark 7/10
With Lambert keen to experiment with his defensive back line, Clark was brought on in place of Vlaar and performed well alongside Okore. The centre-half showed maturity on the ball, always clearing the danger whenever it arose—something that cost Villa and his national side Ireland dearly last year. On 66 minutes Clark was presented with a shot on goal and struck it well. Murphy, however, was in a prime position to save.
Leandro Bacuna 6/10
Having played well and scoring a goal in Villa’s recent friendly win over Crewe Alexandra, Bacuna was introduced at half time. The midfielder looked lively, beating his man at almost every opportunity as he looked to get the ball into the box.
Nicklas Helenius 7/10
The 6’5” Dane was introduced at half-time and took the place of Aleksandar Tonev, playing up front as Bacuna moved to the wing. Moments after coming on Helenius could have scored but was denied expertly by Murphy in goal. The striker continued to cause problems for the Shamrock defence as with clever hold-up play. A wayward header in the final 10 minutes completed a decent 45 minutes.
The 5’9” Delph, who somehow manages to look gangly on the ball was also given a second-half run out, taking the place of El Ahmadi. The final 45 minutes were a somewhat subdued affair with Villa controlling the majority of the play. Delph is a player who always likes to see a lot of the ball and this was no different. Very active in the heart of the Villa midfield, the Bradford-born youngster ran the show without Villa adding to their tally.