Villa the Hero
Attendance: 6, 625
A clinical display by Derby County put them into the last sixteen of the Carling Cup to face Leeds United next Tuesday for a place in the quarter-finals. Tito Villa claimed a hat-trick on his recall to the side after his goalscoring performance against Forest and Nathan Ellington grabbed the other as Derby eased their way into the last sixteen.
The Rams made three changes to the starting line-up from Sunday with Roy Carroll replacing Steven Bywater in goal and Przemyslaw Kazmierczak and Tito Villa coming in for Gary Teale and Rob Hulse respectively with Nacer Barazite not allowed to play under the terms of his loan deal from Arsenal. Kazmierczak lined up on the left of midfield with Commons taking his place on the right. Academy graduate Mitch Hanson claimed a place on the bench for his first involvement in the first team since April 2006.
Brighton started the stronger of the two sides with Carroll fielding Kevin Thornton's effort within the first two minutes and Stuart Fleetwood then broke the offside trap and slid the ball past the Derby keeper only for Jordan Stewart to get back to block superbly on the line. Glenn Murray was then inexplicably caught offside as the striker and Fleetwood combined to put the ball in the net only for the linesman's flag to rule the strike out.
Derby were struggling to get into the match and it took fifteen minutes for their first real effort on goal with Kazmierczak's dipping shot flying over with Sullivan a spectator in The Seagull's goal. The Polish international then set Green up with a corner that the former Doncaster man took down before firing into the side netting as he was closed down in the box. As the visitors pressure began to build Sullivan saved well from Villa who met Commons corner with a firm header. Brighton looked to break dangerously at the other end but Murray couldn't quite reach Fleetwood's through ball and Derby took the lead moments later. Stewart hit the ball long into the Brighton area and Sullivan made a mess of his catch under pressure allowing Tito Villa to fire into the empty net from close range.
The game started to even out but Derby went further ahead eleven minutes later from another long ball, Leacock the provider this time as his long pass was allowed to bounce on the edge of the box with Ellington beating the defence to the ball before hammering past Sullivan to double The Ram's advantage. Brighton struck back within two minutes however with Elphick heading powerfully home from Thornton's corner as Derby conceded another goal from a set piece and let the home side back into the match.
Miles Addison received the games first booking, his fifth of the season, to pick up a one game suspension and miss the tie against Leeds United in the next round. Brighton ended the half on the front foot although another superb block by Jordan Stewart denied Anyisah a shot on goal after he cut in well from the left and the game reached half-time with the visitors' a goal in front.
The Seagulls' started the second half strongly and after a cross was deflected against the bar the resulting corner was again headed goal wards by Elphick only for Stewart to head off the line. Derby were then forced into the games first change with Leacock making way for Ruben Zadkovich and Addison dropping back into the centre of defence to allow the Australian to line-up alongside Paul Green in the middle of the park.
Elphick again won a Thornton corner only to head straight at Carroll as Brighton looked to take advantage of set pieces. Gary Teale took over from Kazmierczak and the switch meant Commons could return to his usual position on the left. Lewin Nyatanga picked up a booking after a collision with Murray before Teale set up a third goal for Derby on 73 minutes with a low cross. Tito Villa came in at the back post to stoop and head into the net from eight yards and put Derby in command of what looked to be a tricky tie. Commons then should have done better from another Teale cross but he scuffed his right foot effort well wide of the mark.
Anyisah lost his man and was first to a McLeod cross but he couldn't get his header on target and Derby finished the match as a contest on 87 minutes when a flicked clearance from Carroll found Villa who controlled and ran at goal before finishing past Sullivan for his third and Derby's fourth of the match. Villa then made way for Hanson as the youngster made his full debut but there was little action to speak of in the final minutes as Derby closed out the win to claim their place in the last sixteen of the tournament.
Scored a hat-trick at the right time with his recall to the side and he will hope this can be the start of another run in the side and some long overdue goals. Took his goals well and looked dangerous all evening for The Rams.