Milner's mastery points way to Champions League for O'Neill

Blackburn Rovers 0 Aston Villa 2

Sam Allardyce is no Bruce Forsyth but he does know what points mean. By his estimation, and history's too, Aston Villa are six wins away from ensuring they are in the Champions League next season. Five could be enough.

Villa, who moved to third in the Premier League with this win, are on 51 points and Big Sam, who is possibly the top flight's most statistically aware manager, believes that puts them within 17 of a place in the top four. Arsenal and Arsène Wenger might beg to differ, but they will have to confound the mathematics.

"Normally it takes between 66 and 68 points to claim fourth spot," the Blackburn Rovers manager said. "Everton slipped in with 61 points one season but generally it's 65 and above. If Villa get there, Arsenal or another of the top four teams will find it difficult to match it."

Allardyce was speaking after Martin O'Neill's team had systematically snuffed out his side's chance of extending his unbeaten record since he arrived at Ewood Park in December. He was smarting, but he was impressed, too, and believes that not only will Arsenal struggle to finish above Villa this season but Chelsea too.

"We weren't at our best because Villa were so good," he said. "They put pressure on us all over the pitch because they are very, very good out of possession.

"Their team work extremely hard to make life difficult for you and when they get the ball they constantly probe with the pace they have got."

Honeyed words for O'Neill, whose principal problem appears to be roping in runaway expectation. The visiting supporters sang about winning the Premier League, something the manager insists in premature, and clearly Fabio Capello is a fan as he has included six of the Villa team in his England squad for the friendly against Spain on Wednesday.

"I hope no one is picked," was O'Neill's wry observation but he did go on to sing the praises of James Milner, who has been called into the England squad for the first time.

"I've had a look at the DVDs and I thought he was brilliant for us in the year he was on loan and his game has expanded since then," he said. "What used to be levelled at him was his final ball wasn't good enough, but apart from one game this season, against Portsmouth, he has been outstanding."



It was Milner who set Villa on the path to this win with a ferocious shot from a narrow angle and he was the most creative influence on the pitch by a wide margin. Yet, he brings more, as O'Neill testified.

"He covers so much ground for us," he said, "defensively he is brilliant. He and Ashley Young get back at the first sign of danger, they are covering ground, they are picking it up, they are going 40 or 50 yards with the ball. It's incredible energy. I know, I used to play in that position and I really don't know how they do it."

Many are wondering much the same about Villa.

Goals: Milner (27) 0-1; Agbonlahor (90) 0-2.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Robinson; Ooijer, Samba, Nelsen, Warnock; Pedersen, Grella, Andrews (Tugay, h-t), Dunn (Diouf, h-t); McCarthy, Roberts (Santa Cruz, 74). Substitutes not used: Bunn, Khizanishvili, Villanueva, Givet.

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Friedel; Cuellar (Gardner, h-t), Davies, Knight, L Young; Milner, Petrov, Barry, A Young; Heskey (Carew, 70), Agbonlahor. Substitutes not used: Guzan, Sidwell, Delfouneso, Salifou, Shorey.

Booked: Blackburn McCarthy, Tugay; Aston Villa Barry.

Referee: S Bennett (Kent).

Man of the match: Milner.

Attendance: 24,267.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks