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Match report: Villa 3-1 Blackburn

From the manager: Official programme notes Gerard Houllier praises character of his players in Blackburn win
Match report: Villa 3-1 Blackburn

By Dan Harrison

The Gerard Houllier era got off to a winning start as Villa produced a superb second-half turnaround to see off Blackburn.

And it was a familiar face from the Frenchman's Liverpool days who sparked a brilliant comeback for the claret and blues.

With Villa trailing to Gael Givet's first-half strike, Houllier threw on Emile Heskey and the decision proved to be an inspired one.

The ex-England striker sparked the revival by scoring within seconds of coming on as a substitute, before setting up the second of Ashley Young's two goals.

While the this Carling Cup third round tie didn't quite have the heart-stopping drama of last season's epic semi-final between the two sides, the home supporters went away with plenty to be happy about.

The claret and blue faithful arrived in anticipation of a new dawn, with the intrigue of finding out a bit about how their side will look under Houllier.

The new boss ran the rule over the core of his first team stars when he watched Saturday's draw against Bolton from the stands, so this clash presented him with an ideal opportunity to have a closer look at the squad players he has inherited.

Eight changes were made in all, most notably Steve Sidwell making his first appearance of the campaign after an achilles injury, while Barry Bannan made his inaugural start for Villa in domestic competitions.

When asked about the fine-tuning he would make to Villa's style of play, Houllier insisted it would take time for his methods to come to fruition.

He said ball retention was among the main focuses in training this week and this was evident in the first-half play with the home side opting for a patient approach.

Young fashioned the first real opportunity of the match, with a fine piece of trickery 30 yards from goal before continuing forward and firing low at Rovers goalkeeper Mark Bunn.

There was an early blow for Houllier to contend with as Gabby Agbonlahor pulled up and had to be replaced by Nathan Delfouneso.

From there Blackburn seized their chance. Givet had already gone for goal with a stinging left-foot effort which went wide of Brad Guzan's goal.

But the American custodian could do little about the thunderbolt effort that the Blackburn player hit across him into the bottom corner, giving his side a 33rd minute lead.

It seemed to stifle Villa, who only had a Young's free-kick, which went just over, to show for their efforts in the aftermath of Givet's opener.

However, a much different side emerged for the second-half and produced some scintillating football.

Just as Villa turned the tables on Rovers to come storming back in that epic 6-4 semi-final victory earlier this year, they did the same here.

Guzan had parried a powerful shot from Brett Emerton but moments later Houllier's men were back in business.

No sooner had Heskey arrived on the field in place of John Carew, he was racing on to the end of Young's through ball before firing a low left-foot drive across Bunn for a 59th minute equaliser.

Villa's confidence went up a gear with Bannan looking particularly bright on his first Villa Park start.

The Scotsman went close with two attempts after neat exchanges with Sidwell and Delfouneso.

But it was left to Young to seal a place in round four with two goals in the space of a minute.

Firstly, he headed home Delfouneso's right wing cross on 76 minutes at the near post and, within 60 seconds, he timed his arrival in the penalty area perfectly to convert Heskey's fine cutback from the right hand side.

VILLA: Guzan; Lichaj, Clark, Cuellar, Warnock; A Young, Reo-Coker, Sidwell, Bannan; Carew, Agbonlahor. Subs: Friedel, Delfouneso (for Agbonlahor, 31), Davies (for Clark, 76), Salifou, Beye, Osbourne, Heskey (for Carew, 58).

BLACKBURN: Bunn, Olsson, Givet, Nelsen, Emerton, Pedersen, Nzonzi, Benjani, Hoilett, Jones, Chimbonda. Subs: Fiedling, Samba (for Nelsen, 65), Kalinic (for Hoilett, 78), EH Diouf, Linganzi, Morris, M Diouf (for Benjani, 62).

Picture: Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC/Getty Images

AVFC Official
By @AVFCOfficial 22nd September 2010
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