Aston Villa: Steer 6: Bacuna 5, Lowton 4, Clark 5, Luna 4; Albrighton 7, Westwood 6, Delph 6, Tonev 4 (Helenius (60th) 6); Weimann 4, Benteke 4
Sheffield United: Long 6; McMahon 7, Maguire 7, Collins 7, Hill 6; Flynn 8, McGinn 6, Doyle 6, Murphy 7 (Miller 90th); Baxter 5 (Coady 80th), Porter 7
Ref: D Coote
The build up for this FA Cup encounter had started only a day previous when national press quoting Villa boss Paul Lambert suggesting that the FA Cup had little importance to the 20 teams in the Premier League. He insists that he was miss quoted but it seems rather ironic that the Scottish born boss showed little respect for both the oldest (and greatest) cup competition in the world yet saw his Villains side dumped out of the competition by two Scottish players.
United had taken an early lead through Jamie Murphy, whose deflected shot sailed over Jed Steer in front of the famous Holte End to take the lead for the travelling Sheffielders. Villa weren't in the game for much of it but managed to find an equaliser 15 minutes from time through substitute Nicklas Helenius but this lasted just six minutes when a jinxing run was finished superbly by Ryan Flynn.
Despite his comments Lambert fielded a side which consisted mostly of first team players with former Sheffield United defender Matt Lowton at the heart of the Villa defence. Brad Guzan, Captain Ron Vlaar and former Wednesday striker Gabriel Agbonlahor was rested in place of Jed Steer, Ciaran Clark and ex-Leeds man Febian Delph took their place whilst Nigel Clough fielded a positive starting line-up and was forced into only one change. With Simon Lappin illegible to play by Cardiff with 16 year old Academy player Dominic Calvert-Lewin taking to the bench.
For United the odds were against them, 53 places separated the two teams and the Blades hadn't won at Villa Park since England won the World Cup in 1966 but this wasn't to worry the strong 6,000 travelling support who were in good voice throughout and from the start United started the game well but neither side mustered any chances on goal but the Blades back four defended like Trojans - Collins was booked for a challenge on Marc Albrighton on 12 minutes.
The first opportunity of the game resulted in a goal, on the 20 minute mark a neat move involving Jose Baxter resulted in MURPHY infamously cutting in from the left and his shot took a cute deflection off Ashley Westwood to neatly lift the ball over the diving Steer who stood little chance of making the save. Murphy went in search of another and in similar fashion cut in from the left after Stephen McGinn had crossed to the Scot but his fired wide his effort.
At the other end Aleksander Tonev was handed a chance when Tony McMahon clearance was blocked by Benteke after half an hour of play but it was United who controlled the majority of the play - Clark was booked for a rash challenge on Porter who was left blooded and requiring treatment before returning with a 'Terry Butcher' style headband, as the break loomed ever closer Benteke was handed a double chance to spear head Villa back on level terms but on both occasions he put his headers wide of Long's goal to much relief of Long and the travelling support.
United started the second half in a similar fashion to that of the first with Flynn finding himself two attempts at goal which both required saves from Steer and at the Holte End Long did well to keep out Albrighton's cross with a dramatic leaping dive.
On the hour mark Danish International forward Helenius was introduced, replacing the ill effective Tonev with the home support growing frustrated as each minute passed with Flynn again seeing his effort parried away by Steer and the then set up Porter but he could only fire wide at a tight angle.
With twenty minutes remaining McMahon put in a great challenge on Benteke to prevent the Belgian striker from a one-on-one situation with Long and Villa saw themselves slowly getting into the game and chances becoming more frequent and was ever more so when a penalty shout after Benteke went down in a heap after Maguire challenged - appeals were waved away but seconds later it didn't matter, the ball was swung back into the box and after taking a deflection kindly fell to HELENIUS who cruelly smashed home the equaliser, it wasn't deserved but the home support got what they wanted.
The majority of the travelling United support expected a 'back to the walls' job for the final fifteen minutes but rising from the days of old United wouldn't give in and fought tooth and nail to the bitter end. Porter fired over after Baxter's lay-off and Flynn shot narrowly across goal. There persistence and hard work was to pay dividends moments later when FLYNN produced something brilliant. On the right he did well to keep possession on the edge of the box before jinxing past two defenders and beautifully curled home past Steer to send the strong away support into frenzy.
Captain Michael Doyle charged back 50 yards to stop a Benteke effort and four minutes of injury time was announced. United made two substitutes with Terry Kennedy and Shaun Miller replacing Porter and Murphy in the closing minutes and deep into injury time Weimann and Benteke went close to forcing a replay. It was an anxious wait for the final whistle to blow but came with great celebration from the Sheffield United camp; they had just pulled off the result of the round! And would await the draw for the fourth round a day later.