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Villa 1 Brentford 2: Villa unable to find breakthrough in frustrating defeat

Villa were unable to find an equalizer as they fell to Brentford in a frustrating defeat on Boxing Day.

Derby County v Aston Villa - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Villa’s evening at Griffin Park got off to an awful start: despite dictating possession for the first few minutes, Villa’s brightest attacking option Albert Adomah had exited the match and Villa were 1-0 down in less than 25 minutes. Adomah was forced off after being kicked in the body from a Villa corner, while Brentford’s goal came when Glenn Whelan had a chance to clear his lines, but instead his first touch gifted the ball back to Brentford’s Romaine Sawyers, who picked out Villa’s bottom corner from outside the box.

However, after going behind, Villa came out with renewed energy. Jack Grealish repeatedly found dangerous space in Brentford channels, and Villa were soon level after a precise Scott Hogan cross was clinically dispatched by a rising Josh Onomah, who had come on only a few minutes earlier to replace Adomah. Villa almost scored again when Scott Hogan and Jack Grealish combined neatly, but Grealish’s return ball for Hogan was a fraction too late and Hogan’s finish was ruled off.

Brentford’s wingers Florian Jozefzoon and Sergi Canos plagued Villa’s back line and put Alan Hutton and Neil Taylor under constant pressure, but they were both unable to find a cross Chester and Elphick couldn’t deal with before the break. Villa came within a step of taking advantage of Brentford sloppy passing a few times, with the hosts lucky that the persistence of Grealish and Hogan was not rewarded with a clearer sight of goal.

The second half started with immediate action, as Glenn Whelan was again dispossessed near the halfway line, allowing Sergi Canos to stride towards the Villa goal. Canos ignored his teammates as he closed in on Sam Johnstone, and his shot almost deflected in off Tommy Elphick, but Elphick sprinted across the box to prevent Canos from finishing his own deflected effort. Robert Snodgrass unleashed a fierce effort with his left foot from outside the box a few minutes later, but his shot was saved well by Brentford’s goalkeeper Daniel Bentley. Brentford claimed their second goal from a corner, as Josh Onomah failed to clear his lines and the ball fell sloppily to Brentford’s Lasse Vibe, whose shot found its way through Neil Taylor and Robert Snodgrass. Sergi Canos later hit the bar, and Brentford almost scored again when Tommy Elphick dribbled into trouble at the edge of Villa’s box, but he dragged down the Brentford attacker and was only punished with a yellow card.

Alan Hutton and Jack Grealish got behind Brentford’s defense on multiple occasions, but no Villa players were able to latch onto their crosses in pursuit of an equalizer. One of the best chances came from a Neil Taylor cross which found Keinan Davis in the middle of goal, but it was just too high for Davis to redirect towards goal. Davis had another glorious opportunity blocked in stoppage time, and from the ensuing corner there was a scramble on the Brentford line that led many Villa fans to believe the ball had been forced over the line by Onomah or Davis, but the referee pointed to his watch to show that the ball had indeed not crossed the line.

The final whistle blew with Villa falling to yet another disappointing result. Pressure on Steve Bruce continues to mount as Villa fall further and further from the pace they set at the beginning of the season, and a tricky match against Middlesborough and newly hired Tony Pulis comes next on Saturday.