It looked for the better part of this game that Aston Villa's inability to convert good chances would once again be their undoing, but thanks to an unstoppable Leandro Bacuna free kick and a perfectly placed header from Libor Kozak the home side managed a solid 2-0 win over Cardiff City that felt truly vital in determining the tenor of their season. It was a game in which Villa were the better side throughout, and though it took 75 minutes for the breakthrough to come, the fact that it did makes it easier to appreciate the quality of the performance. Cardiff aren't world beaters, but a win is a win-especially at home-and the three points earned have put Villa back into the top half of the table.
Villa started very well, creating a very good chance within the first minute that saw Kozak caught just offside. There would be several others, and though the home crowd was audibly frustrated at the half it was almost certainly Villa's inability to capitalize on their opportunities rather than disapproval at the overall performance. Unfortunately for the home fans it would be more of the same after the break, with Villa on top but unable to pull ahead. Goalless since September 28th, it was beginning to feel as though a moment of brilliance would be required to put an end to the drought.
Luckily, that moment of brilliance came. Bacuna was dragged down by Gary Medel after making a tricky run into the Cardiff half, and his 25-yard free kick was as well placed and perfectly struck as the come, dipping over the wall and finding the top corner without so much as a wave from David Marshall. With the 451-minute goalless run ended, the next predictably came less than ten minutes later when Aleksandar Tonev's cross was nodded back into the path of Kozak, whose tricky header slipped just out of Marshall's reach and into the bottom corner. It was a deserved win, and with a run of very winnable games ahead it was an important one as well.
Still, it isn't as though Villa played flawlessly or had their way with the visitors. Cardiff created a few very good chances of their own, and Villa was very lucky that two very poor defensive lapses-one a miscomunication between Brad Guzan and Nathan Baker, the other a near own-goal header from Kozak-did not come back to haunt them in the end. And though Cardiff was forced into playing Villa's game, it must be said that said game is still a very blunt instrument. It isn't often that a team will outclass their opposition completing just 69% of their passes, and for any hope of sustainable success Villa will need to either evolve or refine their approach.
But as poor as Villa have looked at home in recent years, any win in Birmingham is worth celebrating, doubly so when considering that Fabian Delph, Gabby Agbonlahor, Andreas Weimann and Antonio Luna are unavailable due to injury. Up next is a West Midlands derby at the Hawthorns, and given the current status of both clubs it will be an even bigger one than usual. If Villa's win over Cardiff can be a genuine starting point for a run of good form, there's a genuine chance that any realistic threat of a relegation battle is eliminated before the New Year. But seeing as how consistency hasn't exactly been one of this club's calling cards in recent memory, it's probably best that folks don't start getting ahead of themselves.