QUEENS Park Rangers tonight caused a major upset in the Carling Cup, as they turned over Premier League Aston Villa.
Villa who current sit in a Champions League spot were overturned by their Championship counterparts courtesy of a headed goal by Damion Stewart.
The Jamaican central defender stayed up from a corner to latch on to a pin point cross from Daniel Parejo and nod the R`s infront and send the travelling army wild.
In truth Villa created the better opportunities, spurning clear cut chances and they were made to pay by incisive Queens Park Rangers, who march on into the next round in the Carling Cup leaving Martin O`Neill to concentrate on league matters.
Iain Dowie made a multitude of changes going into the League Cup clash against Aston Villa. Defensive changes included the withdrawal of Peter Ramage and Kaspars Gorkss, with Matthew Connolly slotting into right back, and Fitz Hall returning to the heart of the defence alongside Damion Stewart.
The changes continued into the midfield line – with Akos Buzsaky and Daniel Parejo coming in for Mikele Leigertwood and Lee Cook, with the self-professed R`s fan dropping out of the 18 alltogether. Dexter Blackstock dropped to the bench with Patrick Agyemang being given a starting berth in a lone striker`s role.
Villa handed a debut to young stopper Brad Guzan at the expense of experienced stopper Brad Friedel. They fielded a strong squad which included England international Gareth Barry, Ashley Young, John Carew and Marlon Harewood.
£8,000,000 signing from Glasgow Rangers, Carlos Cuellar, was also handed a home debut as Villa went in search of emulating the class of 1996 and win the Carling Cup.
Kick Off: Aston Villa v Queens Park Rangers
Rangers started the fixture on the up and wasted no time in creating chances, and warning the Villa rearguard that the visitors from W12 meant business. Akos Buzsaky came close first for the Londoners as his strike from distance flew over the bar from distance.
Right winger Emmanuel Ledesma was displaying his vast array of trickery down the right flank, and he too went close with an effort from distance a moment later – but once again the technique was lacking as the shot merely flew over debutante Guzan`s bar.
Aston Villa started to assert some Premier League class on proceedings, Harewood`s strike from distance flew over the bar before England midfielder Gareth Barry found Ashley Young in space down the right flank. Having switched over from the left-hand side Young cut inside and knocked a weak effort goal-bound which Cerny was more than equal to.
The play switched back to the other end and Rangers had a free-kick from a promising distance. The talent of Martin Rowlands, Akos Buzsaky and Daniel Parejo stood over the ball and it was the Spanish Under 21 international who had his well placed shot deflected over the bar. Villa were certainly riding their luck, but for all of Rangers attacking possessional play they had no real killer instinct beyond the edge of the area.
Norwegian international John Carew managed to find himself some space down the left flank, and got in behind Jamaican international Damion Stewart – Stewart however was on hand to produce a goal-saving tackle to hand Villa a corner.
Once again the game went back to the other end as Emmanuel Ledesma drifted in from the right flank and cut inside. The Argentinean refused the temptation of shooting from distance and kept coming inside, feigning to shoot on several occasions – before finally unleashing an effort that flew over the bar.
Villa ended the first period in the ascendancy with Connolly produced another match-saving tackle to deny Marlon Harewood – who himself looked in fine form taking the ball down with ease and running direct to the heart of the defence. Then it was the turn of England winger Ashley Young – the forward had looked live-wire throughout and unleashed a dipping, curling drive from outside the area that sent Cerny sprawling, but in truth was never likely to break the deadlock.
Yet more indecisiveness in the heart of the defence nearly presented Marlon Harewood the chance to hand the hosts the advantage. Radek Cerny had once again displayed his nervousness between the sticks, opting to punch the ball instead of attempting to catch, this time he missed his punch and the former West Ham United man Harewood somehow sent his unchallenged header over the bar from close range. This lead to R`s fans encouraging Cerny to catch the ball!
That chance drew the first half to an end as Villa began to assert their authority on the game. Rangers were looking tentative in areas, despite some good build up play involving some accomplished midfield play, they couldn`t provide that cutting edge in the final third. Villa by contrast seemed destined to break the deadlock having the wealth of chances on home soil.
Aston Villa 0-0 Queens Park Rangers
Villa started the second half continuing their attacking exploits – with Ashley Young once again at the forefront of the Villa attack. The attack spearheaded by giant duo Carew and Harewood were proving a tough ask for Hall and Stewart, but the Rangers rearguard stood stoutly to the test.
Somehow, some way Rangers managed to haul themselves in front courtesy of the aforementioned Damion Stewart. Akos Buzsaky`s corner from the left was palmed away by Brad Guzan out to the man Vital QPR outlined as the man to watch – Daniel Parejo. The young Spaniard bent in a right footed cross to the head of the grateful Stewart who planted his header home, unmarked to send the Rangers fans into raptures.
Aston Villa 0-1 Queens Park Rangers
Patrick Agyemang made way for Samuel Di Carmine, the striker on loan from Fiorentina has impressed in the reserves of late and warranted his place on the bench. Agyemang made little inroads upfront and Di Carmine was granted his chance.
The big-guns were brought on by Villa as Gabriel Agbonlahor and Wayne Routledge took to the field to offer the hosts more in terms of pace as the Rangers defence were visibly slow and tiring. But it was another Villa star that spurned a chance to draw the game level.
Gareth Barry coasted through following an excellent flick-on from John Carew, one of the few times he got the beating of Damion Stewart, but Barry with the goal at his mercy, managed to lift the ball wide of the left hand upright, despite the attentions of Cerny.
Villa were starting to force the issue as they began to show their Premier League class, a period of possession saw the Villains lay siege to the Rangers goalmouth, but have nothing to show for their exploits. Gareth Barry in truth was a shadow of the player who had put in some commanding performances for his country – as the Villa side was visibly tiring after an enduring spell of games.
Rangers nearly sensationally doubled their advantage, when Daniel Parejo got a foothold on the game and struck from distance forcing Guzan into a smart stop, and the ball was cleared away before Ledesma could reach the rebound.
Villa threw everything at Rangers towards the end, but the Rangers defence really held firm in testing circumstances. The rain continued to beat down in Birmingham as Villa threw the ball long to the ample figure of Carew.
A couple of hairy moments ensued as some well flighted crosses by Young found Cerny in good form to read the ball and catch to the adulation of the away crowd. In truth the Villains could offer little in terms of clear cut chances as Rangers buoyed by their sizable travelling support did their manager proud.
Three nervous minutes of added on time ensued, with much biting of nails in the away end only matched by the groans of desperation from the home following, who in truth grew in frustration throughout the fixture.
The final whistle was blown and somehow Rangers had hauled themselves into the next round of the Carling Cup. The Fourth Round draw will be made on Saturday as Rangers move into the hat in sensational circumstances.
Will someone tell Iain Dowie – WE DON`T DO CUPS!
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Villa: Guzan, Barry, Young, Harewood (Agbonlahor 68), Carew, Knight, Petrov, Shorey, Cuellar, Gardner, Osbourne (Routledge 68).
Subs Not Used: Friedel, Delfouneso, Davies, Salifou, Reo-Coker.
Rangers: Radek Cerny, Matthew Connolly, Damien Delaney, Damion Stewart, Fitz Hall, Emmanuel Ledesma (Angelo Balanta 91), Akos Buzsaky (Mikele Leigertwood 82), Martin Rowlands, Gavin Mahon, Daniel Parejo, Patrick Agyemang (Di Carmine 66).
Subs Not Used: Lee Camp, Kaspars Gorkss, Hogan Ephraim, Dexter Blackstock.
Radek Cerny 7/10
Radek improved dramatically throughout the fixture, and as the going got tough Radek got stronger. Had a few shaky moments early on but helped steady the ship with a few key catches – something he needs to persist with.
Matthew Connolly 6/10
Connolly did OK by and large, but was given torrid time by Ashley Young late on as Villa laid siege to the R`s goal. He did well to relieve the pressure in some instances, winning the ball in the air or simply whacking the ball clear. Clearly not an out and out right back, but played is part.
Damien Delaney 7/10
The Irish international had outstanding stamina to make buccaneering runs down the left flank, and join up with some useful interplay with the midfield. He defended well despite the fact that spaces occasionally appeared in behind. By and large a goo performance.
Damion Stewart – 9/10
Absolutely immense at the back, and from being third or even fourth choice central defender at the start of the season, he has made himself undroppable, and is a rejuvenated player under Iain Dowie. His goal was a perfectly planted header as he continues to be billed as a goalscoring central defender. Class act throughout and is building himself a reputation.
Fitz Hall – 8/10
Fitz came back in and gave a commanding performance in the heart of the defence. He dealt with a tricky customer in John Carew with relative ease. He brought the ball out of defence and distributed intelligently.
Emmanuel Ledesma – 7/10
Can perhaps have the criticism levelled at him that he hit the floor a little easy, however Ledesma`s trickery bamboozled the Villa full backs, and if his technique was a little better he could have bagged himself a goal or two in the first period.
Akos Buzsaky – 8/10
Played in the unfamiliar role of left-midfield and came inside many times in search of an opening. With Ledesma doing the same thing it was up to the full backs to fill the void. His movement was impeccable at time, and his distribution excellent. In the same vein as Ledesma, a little more composure would have handed The White Pele a goal.
Gavin Mahon – 8/10
An absolute rock, Gavin Mahon battled harder than I`ve ever seen in the middle in order to stifle the international creativity of Gareth Barry. His goal was achieved as he took the ball back for Rangers and moved it on to the creative players. Both in the air and on the floor Gavin was all over the situation.
Martin Rowlands – 7/10
His creativity in the middle was excellent once more, and was a real link between midfield and attack. There were moments where he could have driven on and bagged a goal, but opted to sit a little more which isn`t his style. He did very well in his role however and was a major contributer to the cause.
Daniel Parejo – 8/10
In the first period Daniel did OK without ever really excelling, his passing style was relaxed, a little too much at times, and he couldn`t probe for an opening. In the second half Dani shone and showed R`s fans what he`s made of. His commitment to the cause was something rarely seen from the Spanish starlet. His creativity, quick thinking and excellent passing carved out the chance for the R`s victory.
Patrick Agyemang – 6/10
Pat worked his socks off upfront and had a difficult task to deal with Zat Knight and Carlos Cuellar on his own. He was a tad out of his depth at times and never looked like scoring, but nevertheless played his part.
Samuel Di Carmine – 6/10
Replaced Patrick Agyemang
The Fiorentina loanee was granted his chance after some good reserve performances, but he never really got into the fixture, despite threatening to do so on several occasions. He put a shaky defence under a lot of pressure and bought some time towards the end.
Mikele Leigertwood – 6/10
Replaced Akos Buzsaky
Gave another commanding presence in the middle and was designed to effectively tread on the toes of the defence, taking up a deep midfield role – largely anonymous.
Replaced Emmanuel Ledesma
Never really had a chance to make an impact, but looked strong on the ball as Rangers sought to keep possession in the latter stages. Did well and a performance that promised something for the future.
Iain Dowie 8/10 – Spot on with his first team, made the right decision to go attacking instead of persisting with Mikele Leigertwood. He introduced the right subs at the right times and was tactically sport on – His best game so far by a country mile. Well Done Dowie!
Martin O`Neill 6/10 – May rue his decision to pick a slightly weakened side against Rangers. His side looked sluggish at times after an exhausting schedule. Perhaps should have started with a pace and power combination against a big but slow QPR defensive line. A winnable competition for Villa who were dumped out at the first.
Lee Mason 6/10 – Not the worst official I`ve seen this season, but he was far too pernickerty at times and the games flow was suffering as a result. Nevertheless it broke up the game towards the end. Villa were getting the rub of the green on most decisions, but in truth he didn`t have entirely a bad game.