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.

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
News
Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, right, met at Havana Golf Club in 1962 to mock the game
newsFidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?