Wolverhampton Wanderers see the chase pack closing in. And while the current Championship leaders are still odds on favorite to gain automatic promotion to the Premier League, Villa dispatched the leaders with a rampant second half performance and a 4-1 thumping in front of 37,836 at Villa Park. The victory was Villa’s its 10th win in 12 and kept Aston Villa in third place behind fast closing Fulham. It was also Villa’s second win in seven against Wolves and their first league against their rivals since January 2012.
The match started lively as both teams came out flying and pushing the ball up the pitch. Villa opened their account in the eighth minute. Albert Adomah bundled the ball across the line courtesy of Wolves inability to clear their lines after Mile Jedinak headed Robert Snodgrass’s corner back into the mix. Both Lewis Grabban and Adomah were around the ball. Danny Batth tried to clear but the two Villa players fought hard and the ball found Adomah’s boot.
The match seemed to hinge on Wolves’s ability to push Grealish off the ball in the middle of the pitch and Barry Douglas’s ability to contain Snodgrass down the right. Villa seemed to be in control until Matt Doherty nutmegged Niel Taylor and slid a pass into the danger zone for Diogo Jota. James Chester seemed to slip and flub his clearance, knocking Sam Johnstone off balance, and Jota rolled the ball into the back of the net to equal the score. Two shots on goal. Two goals. And Villa had to get back to work.
Wolves pushed Villa into tight spaces out wide and forced central midfielders Conor Hourihane and Grealish deep upfield. Grabban became increasingly isolated up front and it appeared Wolves had a plan to frustrate Villa and give them little operating space. The match slipped into a tense scrap and despite a brief spell on top late in the first half, Villa headed to the locker room tied 1-1.
Aston Villa needed to take initiative in the second half. And Villa bared their teeth and went for the kill.
Two goals in five minutes turned the match and perhaps the EFL Championship promotion chase. On 57 minutes, Snodgrass swung a sublime free kick into the six-yard box. Chester stuck his foot on the end of it and directed into the back of the net and Villa restored their lead at 2-1 after a nice period on the front foot. But Villa’s work wasn’t done. Villa played Adomah up the left. Adomah out paced the Wolves defense, snuck behind the line, and directed a cross into the path of Lewis Grabban. Grabban reached up his foot beating the defender to the ball and in the span of just a couple of minutes Villa asserted itself on the match and re-introduced themselves to the automatic promotion chase.
With Villa in control, the match become a typical Midlands derby. Yellow cards flew late. Villa ended the match with three while Wolves players were booked five times.
Bjikir Bjarnason came on in the 74th minute for Adomah in what appeared to be a defensive substitution. But the Icelandic international iced the match with a sublime toe poke goal on 85 minutes after working past three Wolves defenders. Bjarnason had space and instead of curling the shot, he poked the ball into the back of the net past Wolves keeper John Ruddy for Villa’s fourth. It was Wolves worst defeat of the season and narrowed the gap between them and second-place chasers Cardiff City to just three points. Villa host Queens Park Rangers Tuesday night in a make up game from the snowed out affair from last weekend.
Villa 4-1-4-1: Johnstone, Taylor, Chester, Terry (C), Elmohamady, Jedinak, Adomah (Bjarnason 75), Hourihane (Lansbury 81), Grealish, Snodgrass, Grabban (Hogan 86).
Wolves 3-5-2: Ruddy, Batth (C) (Saiss 67), Coady, Boly, Doherty, N’Diaye, Neves, Douglas, Cavaliero (Afobe 67), Bonatini, Jota (Costa 76).