Match Report: VILLA 0-0 Valencia
It may not have quite been the Spanish fiesta many had hoped for, but a series of bright individual displays offered Villa plenty of encouragment in their final pre-season clash.
A third encounter with continental opposition in the space of a week ended goalless for Martin O'Neill's men.
However, the Villa boss will have been pleased with fine showings from the likes of Stewart Downing, Nigel Reo-Coker, Luke Young and Marc Albrighton ahead of next weekend's Barclays Premier League opener against West Ham.
The claret and blues were the more threatening team throughout against the third most successful team in La Liga history.
The night almost ended in victory with Downing curling a free-kick off the bar in the final minute, but Valencia held on.
This fixture had undoubted significance for John Carew, who caused problems early on in his first meeting with Valencia since his glittering four-year spell at the Mestalla ended in 2004.
While Los Che's centre-backs, Ricardo Costa and Hedwiges Maduro, clearly weren't enjoying their duel with the big Norweigan, it was Ashley Young who looked keen to steal centre stage.
The ex-Watford star has grown into his auxiliary attacking role during pre-season and the first-half offered countless examples of his ability to orchestrate proceedings from the middle ground.
On three occasions he switched the play with delicious cross-field passes, the third leading to Villa's best first-half opening.
Downing was the recipient, powering into the Valencia penalty area from the left touchline before firing just wide with his right foot.
It set the tempo for Villa, who were undoubtedly the more dangerous team in the first period.
Somehow Luke Young's close range attempt trickled out for a corner after Downing diverted a sumptuous left-wing cross from Albrighton back across goal.
Valencia's antidote to the high tempo of the home team was typically Spanish.
With big guns, such as World Cup winner Juan Manuel Mata and former Real Madrid striker Roberto Soldado on the bench, it was left to wily veteran Vicente to lead Los Che's charge, along with Artiz Aduriz.
The visitors were excellent in their ball retention and patient in their build-up play but, in truth, never came that close to troubling Brad Friedel.
Aduriz's weak deflected effort and a miscue from Vicente were the best the six-time La Liga champions could conjure up in the first 45 minutes.
Indeed, Villa showed far more invention. Captain Stiliyan Petrov volleyed wide before the break, having been cleverly teed up by Carew.
Another claret and blues star who came into this match in buoyant mood was wing starlet Marc Albrighton.
Who could blame the talented Tamworth 20-year-old after the pre-season he has had, and his recent call-up to England under-21s?
Seemingly, not even a step up in opposition could stop him. Having twice shown French full-back Jeremy Mathieu a clean pair of heels, Albrighton drifted infield to test Cesar Sanchez early in the second period, although the experienced custodian was well placed.
O'Neill introduced a flurry of second-half substitutes but this didn't stifle his team's dominance.
Emile Heskey had been on the pitch just 10 minutes when he latched on to Downing's inswinging free-kick but couldn't find the target with his header.
Again, the visitors struggled to hurt Villa, though on the one occasion they did come close former Everton midfielder Manuel Fernandes connected poorly with Aduriz's deft back-flick.
More changes followed for both teams and the final 20 minutes afforded Villa's future stars the chance to sparkle.
The leg warmers sported by Cesar were somewhat questionable, given the mild temperature at Villa Park, but Los Che's goalkeeper was almost caught cold by energetic Austrian Andreas Weimann, who darted forward to close down a backpass.
Nathan Delfouneso's cameo was just as lively. Alexis Ruano found himself trailing against the young striker and received a booking for hooking him down.
Downing's attempt to spark a late fiesta were thwarted when his free-kick came back off the bar.
So, there were no goals to show for a lively performance, but plenty of positive signs from the boys in claret and blue as they get set for Hammer time.
VILLA: Friedel, Beye, Clark, Dunne, L Young, Albrighton, Petrov, Reo-Coker, Downing, A Young, Carew. Substitutes: Guzan (for Friedel 63), Warnock (for Dunne HT), Sidwell (for Petrov 63), Delfouneso (for Albrighton 63), Salifou (Reo-Coker 82), Heskey (for Carew HT), Weimann (for A Young 73), Lichaj (for L Young 73), Lowry (for Clark 82).
VALENCIA: Sanchez, Alexis, Maduro, Mathieu, Costa, Albelda, Feghouli, Fernandes, Arduriz, Suarez, Vicente. Substitutes: Pandero, Saltor (for Mathieu 77), Mata, Soldado, Alejandro, Banega, Miguel, Hernandez, Navarro, Rubio (for Suarez 69).
Adobe Flash Plug-in Needed
This website requires a Adobe Flash plug-in. Please download the latest version of the Flash plug-in by clicking here