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Dugout Blues: Di Matteo’s Villa continue to struggle

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A number of Chelsea players turned managers had disappointing results over the last two weeks. Plus, two former Blues began their World Cup qualifying campaigns.

Aston Villa v Nottingham Forest - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

ROBERTO RAGES

After a brief respite in the form of an International break, Roberto Di Matteo’s floundering Aston Villa took on Nottingham Forest at home on September 11th. The match was a wild and drama-filled affair that featured a scary incident around the 20 minute mark. Villa’s keeper Pierluigi Gollini, a new signing from Hellas Verona, was involved in a nasty collision with Forest midfielder Henri Lansbury. In the clash, the 21-year-old goalie received a kick in the throat, which left the young player visibly shaken. Gollini would actually vomit on the pitch shortly after and was reported to be having problems breathing at half time. For the player’s safety Di Matteo removed him from the game before the beginning of the second half.

When play resumed Villa controlled the game, but it would be Forest who drew first blood. On the 57th minute, against the run of play, Greek striker Apostolos Vellios netted with a stunning 25-yard strike. Though they were shocked by the goal, Villa again poured on the pressure in a game that would see them tally 26 attempts on goal versus Forest’s 3. In the 72nd minute Villa would eventually catch a break as newboy Ross McCormack notched his first ever Aston Villa goal with a tidy finish. And minutes later Rudy Gestede gave Villa the 2-1 lead scoring off a cross from a Jordan Ayew.

At this point Di Matteo must have believed his team were on the way to only their second win of the young season. However, it wasn’t to be. With just three minutes left of regular time Lansbury would finish a clever one-two by scoring past Villa’s back-up keeper, sending the away fans into rapture. As the Forest players celebrated Roberto Di Matteo raged on the touchline, incensed that his team had let 3 points slip through their fingers. The game finished 2-2.

After the game Di Matteo told The Birmingham Mail that he was “very frustrated by the result.” The Italian continued to say that even though the result was “hard to take”, he did believe his side were improving and “heading in the right direction.” You’d hope that’s true for Di Matteo’s sake. The draw left Villa 17th in the table with just 6 points from 6 games. To make matter’s worse, Aston Villa’s hated city-rivals Birmingham City are all the way up in 4th.

Fulham v Burnley - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

ELSEWHERE

Like Di Matteo, Slavisa Jokanovic was left feeling crestfallen after a chaotic game. On September 10th his Fulham team slumped to a 1-0 home defeat to Birmingham City. The game saw the Blues from the second-city receive two penalties and Fulham defender Michael Madl being sent off for two yellows. The loss stunted Fulham’s early rise up the Championship table and drops them back to 6th with 11 points - 5 points off surprise leaders Huddersfield Town.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was left disappointed as well! On September 10th he and QPR could only manage a 1-1 draw with bottom-club Blackburn Rovers at Loftus Road. They sit 7th in the league.

In Spain’s top-flight Gus Poyet had a much better result (in another exciting match). On September 11th Poyet’s Real Betis saw off Valencia 3-2 at the Mestalla. To win the game Ruben Castro scored for Betis in the 92nd minute. This was his second of the game and his fourth in 3 games. The win, which was their first of the season, takes Betis up to 13th after 3 games played.

In Russia Dan Petrescu and Kuban Krasnodar got in two games over the fortnight, both of which were absolute snore draws. On the 10th they drew 0-0 at home to Saratov and before that, on the 3rd, they drew 0-0 to FC Fakel Voronezh. The two points were a marked improvement from Kuban’s earlier results, though. Petrescu’s team are now 13th in the league, a long way off leaders Dynamo Moscow.

In Scotland David Hopkin is having a great time. His Livingston United are currently second in League One thanks to a 3-1 victory away at Alloa on September 10th. Livi have won 4 of their first 5 games and have scored an incredible 16 goals in the process. Livingston also thrashed Celtic’s U20 team 5-1 in the last 16 of the Challenge Cup, setting up a tie with Northern Ireland’s Crusaders.

Back to England now and in the lower leagues Kevin WIlson and Nuneaton Boro picked up a big win on September 3rd when they beat Stalybridge Celtic 4-0 on the road. However, they would follow this win with a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Brackley on the 6th, and then a stifling 1-1 draw with Darlington on the 10th. Boro currently sit 19th in the Vanarama Conference League North.

One tier below Nuneaton, Kings Langley are also in the wrong half of the table. The team jointly managed by Paul Hughes and Ritchie Hanlon is currently 18th in the Southern Premier League, after a loss to Chesham on August 29th and a victory over Cirencester on September 10th. On September 3rd the Kings destroyed Sporting Bengal 6-1 to advance to the next qualifying stage of the FA Cup, where they have been drawn against Mickey Hazard’s Hadley.

Hadley beat London Colney 1-0 to advance to the final qualifying stage of the FA Cup. Whoever wins between Hadley and Kings Langley will be drawn in the FA Cup proper, against Football League competition. Hadley are currently 17th in the Spartan South Midlands Premier Division after a loss to Halstead Town and a win over Colney Heath.

On the international stage Didier Deschamps lead France to a 3-1 victory over Italy in a friendly at Stadio San Nicola in Bari, on September 1st. A week later Les Bleus drew 0-0 away against Belarus in the first game of their World Cup qualifying campaign. France and Belarus are in Group A along with Sweden, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.

Andriy Shevchenko took charge of his first meaningful game with the Ukraine in his opening World Cup qualifying match. On September 5th he and his team were held 1-1 at home versus Iceland. The Ukraine and Iceland are in Group I, drawn with Turkey, Croatia, Finland, and Kosovo.

VIDEO OF THE WEEK

This week why not watch the extended highlights from Roberto Di Matteo’s dramatic game versus Nottingham Forest, thanks to YouTube channel Top Score.

And also, here’s Gus Poyet’s big win over Valencia, thanks to Sports on Time on YouTube.