Aston Villa are heading to Wembley Stadium on May 30th to take on Arsenal in the FA Cup Final after upsetting Liverpool in the semifinals on Sunday. Manager Tim Sherwood has turned Villa around in a short span of time since taking over on Valentine’s Day. His short tenure has the Villa fans believing again and a place in the FA Cup final will be a great treat to end the season.
Liverpool were the big favorites heading into the game on Saturday, as 10 spots divides the two sides in the Premier League table. Liverpool sits in fifth and is battling for one of the Champions League spots, whereas as Villa is fighting for survival at the bottom end of the standings. But with the positive result that Villa has been getting as of late, they are now five points ahead of the drop zone that includes Leicester City, Queens Park Rangers, and Burnley.
After taking the lead in 30th minute through Philippe Coutinho, Liverpool started to drop back a little and that allowed Villa to take more possession of the ball and Christian Benteke tied the game up at 1-1 just six minutes later. Bennett has been like totally different player since Sherwood took over and he’s looking more like the fantastic striker he was during his first year in Birmingham.
Sherwood fielded a 4-3-2-1 formation and played with two No. 10s in Charles N’Zogbia and young Jack Grealish. In the second half Villa continued to control the game and got the go-ahead goal in the 54th minute as Fabian Delph got loose in the penalty box and put the ball in the net from close range.
It was clear that Liverpool had troubles containing both Grealish and N’Zogbia as they time and time again found space in between the Liverpool midfield and defense.
“They were a little bit bamboozled to be honest and I didn’t think they would have expected that,” Sherwood told media after the game. “We changed the way we played, we usually go very direct and use our pace down the sides.”
N’Zogbia who hasn’t started many games under Sherwood got the chance and took it. The 28-year-old Frenchman had a fine game and it must be reassuring for Sherwood to know that he has some players that can come into the team and perform.
“Liverpool would have expected us to do that but we played it nice and short. I thought the game-plan worked perfectly, “ Sherwood said. “We looked at Liverpool and thought it might cause them problems if we played two No.10s.”
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers changed his team’s formation twice in order to combat Villa and get back into the game. “We changed the system twice and changed it half-time to give us more thrust to go forward but we were too passive,” Rodgers said.
Mario Balotelli was subbed in at halftime, but he failed to make a mark in the game and his disappointing season continues as he only has four goals in 26 appearances.
Villa has a tough schedule to close out the regular season including reigning champions Manchester City away on Saturday. The following week they’ll host Tim Howard and his Everton side at home at Villa Park. Then the three remaining games are West Ham at home, Southampton away and then Burnley at home on the final day of the season. Only Burnley is below Villa in the standing so Sherwood will have to get the most out the team in order to secure that they stay up.
Then the final game of the season will be the FA Cup Final against top side Arsenal at Wembley Stadium. It could be a real fairytale ending to the season and would be a great achievement by Sherwood and the team.