Ince hails Blackburn youngster Villanueva

August 28, 2008

Blackburn manager Paul Ince hailed striker Carlos Villanueva as 'different class' after the youngster marked his Rovers debut with a man-of-the-match performance in the 4-1 Carling Cup victory over Grimsby at Ewood Park.

Villanueva, 22, was one of eight changes from the side that drew 1-1 against Hull in the Barclays Premier League last weekend, and played a starring role as an unfamiliar team overcame the shock of falling behind to Tom Newey's superb early free-kick to stroll into round three.

The Chilean player of the year had seen the start of his Rovers career hampered by a bout of chickenpox, and was understandably itching to show his worth to the home fans with the likes of Jason Roberts rested and Roque Santa Cruz left on the bench.

And he seized his opportunity with both hands by scoring the equalising goal with an exquisite drive into the far corner, and he had a direct influence on his side's crucial second when his shot proved too hot for goalkeeper Phil Barnes to handle, allowing Matt Derbyshire to prod home from two yards.

The new boy also sent a fizzing left-footed effort just wide of the upright and smacked the bar with a brilliant free-kick in the dying stages, leaving the Ewood Park crowd buzzing at the prospect of him possibly lining up with Santa Cruz in the not-too-distant future.

And the Blackburn boss did little to play down Villanueva's eye-catching display immediately after the game.

'The lad is different class,' insisted Ince. 'I've said before he is a special talent.

'He's still not as fit as I'd like him to be but, considering he had chickenpox three or four weeks ago and that was his first game, I thought he was sensational.

'He's had a hard situation with him having chickenpox and being away from his family, but it was just nice to see him out there enjoying his football.'

Ince also hailed the performance of strike partner Derbyshire, who has found himself in the shadows since the arrival last summer of Santa Cruz, but showed he has not forgotten where the back of the net is by weighing in with a brace.

Indeed, on another night the England Under-21 international could and probably should have scored more, with a mixture of top-class goalkeeping, wayward finishing and an offside flag denying him at least a hat-trick.

'He could have had five or six - and that's no word of a lie,' Ince continued.

'I'm not sure about the offside one and whether it was offside or not, but he had enough chances and the lad's shown that he has pace.

'He'll score goals if you give him the ball in the right situations.

'It was nice to see him get a brace, because he's been frustrated not to be involved.

'I said to the lads before that they had a chance to show me they want to get into the first XI, and he certainly did that.'

Brett Emerton scored the other Rovers goal, his first of the campaign, leaving Town manager Alan Buckley to rue the fact his side failed to fully capitalise on their seventh-minute advantage.

Buckley, who saw his side lose to Ince's MK Dons side last year in both League Two encounters and also the final of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, admitted: 'I've got no complaints about our work-rate, but I think we have got to have a bit more belief in ourselves.

'I think we did reasonably well but we didn't have enough belief in ourselves when we had the ball, and we needed a bit more cut and thrust.

'But we have to put into perspective what we've played against - very, very talented players.'