In the first half, the two teams spent the first half hour doing very little. The commentators seemed bored. The fans seemed bored. The main action came in the form of injuries. A pre-match injury had dropped Henri Lansbury in favor of Gary Gardner and an in-match injury to Nathan Baker meant weirdness would ensue. With Micah Richards and Tommy Elphick on the bench, you’d think a Baker injury would mean an appearance from one of them. But no, Steve Bruce does not play by the rules of your so-called logic. Instead, Alan Hutton, the Scottish Savior came on.
So the right-back Hutton came on for the centre-back Baker. To compensate, Bruce moved Mile Jedinak to CB and put Hutton on... the right wing of a 4-4-2. Then, a few minutes later, he flopped James Bree up to the right wing and Hutton back to right back.
Somehow, all of this worked. Villa looked simultaneously confused and energized. But in the 34th minute, a short corner that went from Hourihane to Bree to Hourihane eventually floated in to Jonathan Kodjia who headed it home for the 1-0 lead and his 14th goal of the season. That’s where things stood headed into halftime.
Then, the second half kicked off with a bang, as in the 48th minute Vincent Sasso went in hard on Hourihane and was immediately shown a red card by the referee. Fair enough. But Wednesday manager Carlos Carvalhal decided that Hourihane had flopped, and complained a bit too much to the ref. The ref, in return, send Carvalhal to the stands, at which point Carvalhal begged to remain, even falling to his knees in front of a merciless referee. The manager eventually gave up and joined the unwashed masses in the stands.
After losing a player and a manager, Sheffield Wednesday could have been forgiven for giving up, but instead they kept up the pressure while Villa did their usual thing of fading in the second half. The lone bright light was Hourihane, who seems to be on the verge of scoring fourteen goals in a single match but just can’t quite convert.
In the 79th minute, though, Villa put the match away with Kodjia’s second of the day (and fifteenth of the season). Remember, he was £15 million down the drain according to so many fans. He’s also currently £1 million per goal.
After that, Steve Bruce brought on Tommy Elphick for Albert Adomah, and shifted Jedinak back to midfield while slotting Elphick in at centre back. It was a clear sign that Villa were ready to see out the win, and that’s just what they did.
And just like that Aston Villa have won four of their last five, with today’s coming against a team currently sitting in a playoff position. Somehow, despite an injury nightmare, this team seems to be coming together to play the football we always knew they could.