Aston Villa blunt Bournemouth threat to advance in cup

Young Spaniard Carles Gil inspires Paul Lambert’s side at Villa Park

Aston Villa 2 Bournemouth 1

Before the events of a seismic Saturday on which Chelsea and Manchester City were each knocked out this tie had appeared the favourite for a potential FA Cup upset.

The narrative said that a struggling Aston Villa, with only seven league goals all season on their own patch, could well be turned over by Eddie Howe’s slick and quick Bournemouth, who had scored 57 times in the Championship, to lead the division by a point.

Yet by the close there was to be no embarrassment for Villa as they cruised into the fifth round with thanks to Carles Gil, a 22-year-old Spaniard, who on his full debut was the catalyst, opening the scoring with a delightful 50th-minute goal that beat Lee Camp from 20 yards.


By the time Gil wandered off minutes from the close he had earned the ovation given by the Villa fans who surely departed hoping better times could be around the corner for a side that ended with a swagger so markedly missing this term.

Andreas Weimann has given Villa a 2-0 lead on 71 minutes but there was a late wobble when Callum Wilson pulled one back in added time. But Ashley Westwood signalled Villa's firm intent not to be denied by racing upfield and nearly adding a third to close the match out.

Self-belief and the lack thereof had been the dominant theme at Villa Park. For a side that had not enjoyed a league win since December 6th and had scored only once in its last six outings this was understandable.

Paul Lambert stated beforehand that a Cup run would "really generate some momentum in terms of achieving some good results in the second half of the season", then went and made six changes from the side that lost 2-0 at Liverpool.

Howe made nine alterations to his XI. This may have been indicative of how his Cherries have the more pressing priority of gaining promotion to the Premier League to consider but also that the manager fancied any team he fielded might defeat Villa.

In the opening half, Howe was vindicated in the way Bournemouth pinged the ball around, playing the more attractive stuff, and threatening Shay Given’s goal far more that Camp’s came under fire.

Given had to save smartly on 31 minutes when former Republic of Ireland under-21 international Eunan O'Kane let fly a 20-yard shot, the goalkeeper turning the ball around his left post for a corner. Earlier the goalkeeper had been rounded expertly by Shaun MacDonald when Harry Arter played him in, but he could not finish.

This first period began and ended with Villa's best moments. As the game started, Alan Hutton appeared the best hope of opening Bournemouth up. The right back made a couple of marauding runs, the second of which featured a cross that gave Wiemann a free header but the Austrian dragged the attempted finish wide of Camp's goal.

As the contest neared the break Christian Benteke finally found his way into it, the centre forward being targeted by team-mates. Yet as when Kieran Richardson swept in a ball from the left the Belgian refused to make himself a nuisance in the area by making a challenge, at least.

If Lambert decided to give Benteke a half-time gee up the manager might also have demanded of Tom Cleverly and Carlos Sánchez, his holding players, that they should not cede as much space to try and stem the supply coming from Arter, in particular.

It was Benteke who sprang into life first when Mike Dean blew to start the second 45 minutes. But after a surging run that had Bournemouth backpedalling the striker over-elaborated and when Gil tookover his attempt hit only the side-netting.

Still, joy – and relief – was about to spread from Gil to team-mates and the home support due to his peach of a strike. Moved from a No 10 berth to wide right he collected the ball, cut inside, and unloaded a first Villa goal with a left-foot finish that beat Camp sweetly along a diagonal trajectory.

Now, despite the empty seats around the stadium, there was a Villa Park roar as Lambert’s team swept forward, taking the match to Bournemouth in sustained fashion for the first time.

On the hour Howe attempted to stem this claret-and-blue wave by making a double switch. On came Simon Francis for the veteran left back, Ian Harte, and top-scorer, Wilson, for Yann Kermorgant, who had failed to make any impression.

Francis made an immediate one, turning over an enticing cross from the right that forced Ciaran Clark to head out for a Bournemouth corner.

What occurred, though, barely 10 minutes later could only leave Howe standing with hands-on-hips contemplating that his side was about to be knocked out. Hutton, again making a foray down the right, made this one count, finding Weimann who calmly notched a fourth of the season, and a first since November 2nd.

It confirmed Villa had a much required victory.

(Guardian service)