When my 9-year-old son volunteered to come along yesterday morning, I think he was more hopeful of seeing the Globe’s Full English Breakfast than he was of three points. He’s certainly heard enough laments from his dad to know the score of late.
And when, in the third minute, Wes Hoolahan took a cross from Gary Hooper and put it in the back of the net—the two of them beating Villa’s back line with ease—prompting a loud, “FUCK!” from across the table, I began to wonder if I should have left the boy at home. Or at least brought a pair of noise-canceling earmuffs. Disorganized and lacking in touch, fight, or creativity, Vila showed every sign of extending their run of three games without scoring, of five games without a win. And my son seemed likely to build on his vocabulary of words best not repeated in fourth-grade classrooms. And then.
Ron Vlaar played a long ball to Benteke’s chest, the Belgian striker controlled it and played a bicycle kick so low it looked as though he were pedaling to the center of the earth. But his shot was perfectly placed and, in the 25th minute, Villa had equalized. Suddenly it was a different game.
In the 27th minute, Westwood played in a decent corner kick, Benteke headed it down and in, and we were up 2-1! Cheers replaced cursing as, suddenly, Felix was being touted as our good-luck charm. Unbelievably, there were still two more goals come. One capped a nice run of play in the 37th minute, with Gabby and Andi delivering the ball deftly to Bacuna, who took one touch before shooting toward the far post. John Ruddy got his fingers on it, but the ball still found the inside of the far and went in for a goal. And then, in the 41st Gabby scored—or would have, had Norwich defender Sebastien Bassong not saved him the work of actually touching it into the net.
Four goals in fifteen minutes. Just like that. Why can’t we do that more often? For the fans (eight of us in all, including me, my son, Andrew, Tyler, Cat, Nick, and Greg), the second half was devoted to finding the silver cloud’s dark lining. Villa looked a bit flat after the break, and Andrew and I both maintained that, unless we scored another goal, it would look like another fluke result. Nick worried that the team had scored too many goals—ensuring another goal drought in subsequent games, because, “After all, there is a finite number of goals.”
Pretty funny when you think that we had gone into the weekend with the possibility—a remote one, but a possibility nonetheless—that we could have ended the day in sixteenth place, just four points off the drop. Instead, the results fell our way: Villa picked up three points; Palace held Swans to a point, allowing us to leapfrog one Welsh team; and Spurs beat Cardiff, keeping the other Welsh team locked in the cellar. Villa finished the day in eleventh place, and we even made up a little bit of goal differential as well. Avoiding relegation won’t be enough to declare this season a success, but it’s been a long time since I left the pub feeling this good.
And, if you’re worried about my young son’s tender ears, while he has complained about bad language in the past, this time, he told me he hadn’t heard a thing.