Well in fairness to Sunderland, it was a second XI line-up against a WSL side featuring international players. The football though was not pretty and the score certainly reflected that by the end. Some bright spots included some excellent defending by Amy Goddard in the first half and Mary Corbyn putting in an impressive display, especially given her recent introduction to first team football.
Prior to kick-off, Keira Ramshaw was honoured by the club with a framed shirt in front of the fans and our record attendance this season.
Meg Borthwick made several saves from probing shots by Alisha Lehmann and Sarah Mayling’s free kick. After nearly half an hour the first goal was conceded via a brilliantly worked cross and quickly taken header into our goal by Lehmann.
Shortly after a pause in play for Borthwick to replace her dislodged contact lenses, not an easy task with keeper gloves on, Villa scored again, this time by ex-Lasses player Jordan Nobbs.
Five minutes later, Scotland captain Rachel Corsie got the third.
With Goddard coming off at half time and the team looking subdued compared to their energetic and good start, things fell apart. Aston Villa scored moments into the second half this time Ebony Salmon had the honours much like a fisherman’s net, the Lasses' defence looked to be full of holes.
After some nice passing play led by a Jenna Dear run outside the opposition’s box, Mary Corbyn shot at goal but it was saved by the keeper. Emily Scarr also gave home fans hope when she came on for Liz Ejupi, who had struggled to get into the game. Scarr’s fizzing shot forced Villa keeper, Anna Leat, into tipping the ball over the crossbar.
After that, not much more from the Lasses. Aston Villa calmly took the rest of their goals, exploiting an exposed and erroneous backline. Five, six and then seven nil.
One thing that did keep Lasses fans going though was the slowly circulating news that one of the Villa substitutes was in fact cup-tied and therefore ineligible. Noelle Maritz, who came on after half-time caused one keen-eyed fan to comment that she’d already played three times for Arsenal this season in the cup.
And as this little nugget got passed around the ground you could see that our bench had spotted this too. Which may go some way in explaining the lackadaisical approach by Sunderland in the second half. The moment her boots touched grass, Villa by the rules of the competition, had ruled themselves out.
Which is really, really, funny.
After the whistle blew, both teams bypassed their normal after-match media interviews and went straight off. Shame really because that’s a moment we probably won’t see again for a very long time.
Since the match, and the reason for the delay in our report, the FA have commented publicly that Aston Villa are being investigated for “an alleged breach of Cup Rule 8.19” and have “been referred to Sport Resolutions UK for consideration by an independent tribunal.”
Reader, I have been cackling like a witch over her cauldron all day about this.
Truly a pyrrhic victory by Aston Villa here. Shooting oneself in the foot, trees voting for the axe because the handle was made of wood and other analogies galore for this epic feat of self-sabotage.
The other delightful little factoid that has been reported is that there is also precedent for this. In 2014’s League cup fixtures, Reading played an ineligible Bonnie Horwood, who had also played for another side (Watford) three times. The outcome was Reading’s expulsion from the competition and a fine. It was only £50 but you could get yourself a whole Freddo bar for that these days, just goes to show.
If the outcome of the tribunal is that Villa are also expelled from the cup, then Sunderland would progress as top of their group and either one of Manchester United or Tottenham would advance.
If Villa are allowed to continue but Sunderland are awarded the win, then both sides would progress. A possibility that United manager, Mark Skinner strongly disagrees with believing United progressing is the “right” decision.
With the cup draw for the next round due on the 26th of January, this leaves little time for the FA to prepare their statement and decision.
Ha’way the Lasses!