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Villa 1 Nantes 0: Dry friendly ends with a Villa win

Roberto di Matteo's claret and blue travelled to France to take on Nantes Saturday evening and emerged as 1-0 winners.

Julian Finney/Getty Images

Aston Villa's largely successful preseason run of form continued Saturday afternoon in Nantes. Despite being a dry and unentertaining match, Villa are able to return home as winners thanks to Rudy Gestede's second half goal. The first half passed without almost any incident - Villa's fist look at goal didn't come until the 37th minute, when Jordan Ayew slashed a difficult volley well over the bar. New goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini was the one bright spot of the first half, showing very good reactions to make an instinctive kick save to his bottom left in the 11th minute. Ashley Westwood took a few corners for Villa in the first half before coming off at halftime, showing nothing to change the opinion of many Villa fans who have wanted him off corner kicks for a long time now.

Westood and Jordan Veretout came off at half time in favor or Jack Grealish and Aaron Tshibola. Tshibola looked very confident and powerful in midfield, and Grealish provided an attacking option that Veretout was unable to. Nantes' best opportunity of the game came a few minutes into the second half as a Nantes attacker found himself two steps ahead of the nearest Villa defender with nothing but Gollini standing between him and the back of the net, but Aly Cissokho showed laudable pace to track the run down and recover.

Villa's goal came off a Jack Grealish corner which was headed back into the middle of the box by Nathan Baker and slotted home by Rudy Gestede. Gestede had been completely anonymous before the goal, submitting a largely ineffective performance on the whole. Despite Villa's attack looking short of ideas for most of the game, the most encouragement should be taken from the defense of Alan Hutton, Tommy Elphick, Nathan Baker, Aly Cissokho, and Gollini. They worked well as a unit, and should Jordan Amavi replace Cissokho at some point, it will be an even more formidable back line, with strong depth as neither Ciaran Clark nor Jores Okore featured today but are still available in the future.