x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Carew is on fire

John Carew torments the West Brom defence as Martin O'Neill's side registered a third away win in six days to maintain a push for a Champions League spot.

Aston Villa's Norwegian forward John Carew celebrates.
Aston Villa's Norwegian forward John Carew celebrates.

John Carew tormented the West Brom defence as Martin O'Neill's side registered a third away win in six days to maintain a push for a Champions League spot. The Norwegian international scored once but could have finished with a hat-trick after twice being denied by the woodwork. Carew and Gabriel Agbonlahor struck twice in the space of 90 seconds during the first half and the Baggies could only muster a James Morrison goal in reply after a Brad Friedel error. Villa were well worth their win and are showing they now have the strength in depth to cope with a domestic and European campaign. O'Neill was able to bring Carew, Ashley Young and Curtis Davies back into his starting line-up after missing the midweek European trip to Bulgaria ? a luxury that was never available to him last season. But there is now quality cover at his disposal and Albion found it virtually impossible to handle the power of Carew while Ashley Young's free-kicks were a constant source of danger. Gareth Barry also impressed in the middle of the park for the visitors and there are signs of him getting back to his best after the aborted Liverpool transfer saga. Albion knocked the ball around in a pleasing fashion and deserve credit for not caving in after Villa's quick-fire double blast but playing only one main striker in Roman Bednar means opportunities are limited in front of goal. Albion were forced into a late change defender Abdoulaye Meite suffering an ankle injury in the warm-up and being replaced by Leon Barnett. The former Baggies defender Davies was greeted with a crescendo of boos every time he touched the ball. Friedel saved a dipping 25 yard effort from the Albion skipper Jonathan Greening away to his right as the home side knocked the ball around in confident fashion. But they nearly paid the penalty when Agbonlahor was brought down by Gianni Zuiverloon 25 yards out. Ashley Young's floated cross picked out Carew whose powerful header flew only a couple of foot wide with Carson stranded to his line. The Baggies were forced to make a change after 20 minutes when Chris Brunt limped out of the action to be replaced by Do-Heon Kim. Then Villa took complete control with two goals inside 60 seconds from Carew and Agbonlahor. Albion's vulnerability at free-kicks was finally exposed when Young's free-kick was again met by Carew ? and this time the Norwegian international's header beat Carson via the post for his fourth goal of the campaign. West Brom had not had time to recover from this setback before they fell further behind through Agbonlahor's fifth goal of the season. Barnett was at fault in miscontrolling an Ashley Young pass which broke into the path of Agbonlahor and he drilled his shot across Carson from a narrow angle into the corner of the net. After 34 minutes Morrison handed Albion a lifeline with his second goal in as many games. The Villa goalkeeper Friedel was at fault in failing to hold onto a low 20 yarder from Koren ? and Morrison was alert to tuck in the rebound. Friedel partially atoned for his error with a fine close range save to keep out a Kim header shortly before the interval. The post twice denied Carew from adding to Villa's lead early in the second period. The former Lyon striker timed his run perfectly to run onto Nigel Reo-Coker's pass and his cross shot clipped the far post although Carson had done well to narrow the angle. But the ex-Liverpool player could only watch as a Carew header thumped against the post from a Luke Young centre. West Brom boss Tony Mowbray made a double substitution with Ishmael Miller and the former Villa striker Luke Moore replacing Bednar and Bojan Valero. Moore came close to making an instant impact with a goal-bound shot blocked by Barry following a Greening centre but in the end it was O'Neill's Villa side that have the early season bragging rights in the Midlands. *PA Sport