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Press article:

Spot-kick duties fall to Solano - 08/02/2005

Nolberto Solano has confirmed that he will replace Juan Pablo Angel as Aston Villa's penalty-taker.

Angel missed two penalties during the match away to Fulham last Wednesday and earned the ire of David O'Leary.

The Villa manager subsequently relieved Angel of his duties as penalty-taker, at least until the end of the season, leaving the position vacant.

While O'Leary has not announced Angel's replacement, Solano confirmed that the decision had already been made. When asked if he expects to take Villa's next penalty, Solano said: "Yes."

Angel will not need reminding that his misses denied Villa what would have been a deserved victory against Fulham and the 1-1 draw seemed to be greeted by supporters as a defeat.

Solano has been one of Villa's best players over the past year but even he is finding life difficult as the team have struggled to match their performances with results.

Villa were embarrassed by Arsenal during the first half of their match three days ago and the 3-1 defeat was, given the chasm in quality between the teams, seen as a let-off.

"Arsenal were very good," Solano said. "In the first half, we could not really get near them and they made it difficult for us. We played better in the second half but, the way Arsenal play, it surprises me that they are not higher than third [in the Premiership table].

"We knew at half time, when we were three goals down, that we needed to improve. We had talks, of course, and we did get better. Maybe it would have been different if we had played like we did in the second half for all the 90 minutes but that would have been difficult."

O'Leary has given his backing to Thomas Sorensen even though the Denmark international goalkeeper has not matched the "unbelievable standard" of last season.

Sorensen moved from Sunderland to Villa Park in the summer of 2003 for £2 million and played a significant role in Villa's worthy pursuit of a European place last season.

Since returning from Euro 2004, however, Sorensen has struggled to attain the same standards with crucial errors against Birmingham City, Crystal Palace, Sheffield United and Manchester United in recent matches.

But O'Leary has resisted the temptation to replace Sorensen with Stefan Postma, the No 2 goalkeeper who has put himself on the transfer list, and is happy with the general form of the Dane.

O'Leary said: "I think there were a lot of players who played out of their skins for us last season so this time around the expectations have been on them. But it is not just Thomas. There are other players who haven't played to the standard they set last season.

"Thomas is also like any other goalkeeper. If he makes a mistake, it is going to be highlighted everywhere. But, for the price we bought him and with what is around, he is a really good goalkeeper.

"Yes, within certain games he has made mistakes that have been punished but his form is good - but not what it was last season which was an unbelievable standard."

Steve Davis was last night called up to the Northern Ireland squad for the first time with a ringing endorsement of his ability from O'Leary.

Davis, aged 20, was the only uncapped player named by Lawrie Sanchez for the match against Canada at Windsor Park tomorrow.

Davis has a chance to stake a claim for a place in the side to face England and Poland in back-to-back World Cup qualifying matches next month. He made his first-team debut for Villa in November and was in the side that lost to Arsenal at the weekend.

O'Leary said: "He is a wonderful little footballer. When you go and give a good performance against players from the likes of Arsenal it says a lot about you.

"I saw his potential the first couple of weeks I was here. We always train for a fortnight before pre-season tours. He caught my eye. I have brought him along slowly and nurtured him. He is a decent prospect."

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