Aston Villa put out a first choice lineup with a few changes from the pre-international break struggles. Hourihane, Bree, and Elmohamady were dropped for Henri Lansbury, Alan Hutton, and Axel Tuanzebe — with the latter two coming back from injuries. And the one and only Jonathan Kodjia was deemed fit enough to be added to the bench. Kodjia’s last match with the club was October 29th before an injury took him out. The match was a milestone for Jack Grealish for his 100th appearance for the club.
The match started with some long distance efforts but it was Albert Adomah who should have opened the scoring before the ten minute mark. Snodgrass and Tuanzebe worked the ball on the right side of the attack back and forth about half a dozen times before the Scot sent in a teasing cross. Adomah got a boot to it and somehow put his effort over the net.
Only minutes later it was Lansbury down the right side in acres of space. The cross was a good one but Michael Dawson’s sliding clearance kept it from getting to Grabban — who was ready to side foot it in the net.
Hull was the first team to find the back of the net. Abel Hernandez thought he had broken the deadlock in the 17th minute but the flag was up. Tuanzebe had (barely) stepped up to put the forward offside.
Grealish and Snodgrass both fired shots from decent areas but the positioning of Hull’s keeper was spot on.
Around the half an hour mark the tensions started to rise. First Alan Hutton earned Villa a free kick for going down.... easily. That is being kind because I’m not sure there was any contact at all. A few minutes later Snodgrass earned the first yellow card of the match with a sloppy and late sliding tackle. The Hull city fans boo’ed both loudly — and spent plenty of time booing their own players anytime they made a backward pass.
The first half wrapped up with Steve Bruce demanding more from his squad as the team could not finish any of the chances. Though it must be said that Hull’s defense came up big with a trio of sliding tackles that prevented easy goal opportunities.
The second half started with a massive danger sign for Villa. Alan Hutton gave away a needless free kick in an attacking area. Jack Grealish was part of a two-man wall in the box and raised his arms up and made contact with the ball. No call was made and the deflected cross lead to a good shot for Hull but Johnstone came up with the save.
Only minutes later it was Alan Hutton who saved a goal with a perfectly timed tackle in the box on Abel Hernandez who was just about through. It was a brilliant and brave bit of defending because if it goes even a little wrong it is a penalty or a goal.
The second half sleep walk continued as Villa wasted a pair of free kicks in good positions — one of which earned Larsson a yellow card for professionally pulling Jack Grealish down when he was on a nice run.
In the 62nd minute Jonathan Kodjia made his triumphant return to the pitch replacing Mile Jedinak. The formation switch piled a ton more responsibility in the midfield on Henri Lansbury and hollowed out the midfield.
Villa resorted to long balls and then defending. Then long balls. Then defending. Repeat. Repeat.
Elmohamady came on with about fifteen minutes to go for Axel Tuanzebe — adding yet another former Hull City man playing on his former home pitch.
With ten minutes left — Steve Bruce decided to make his final sub and double down on the idea that more strikers means better. (note: It hasn’t and it doesn’t). Hogan came on for Adomah.
But nothing really changed. Plenty of targets but no ability to actually control the match. Must be said that Lansbury came up with two huge defensive plays and Grealish was all over the pitch trying to do a bit of everything (because he was being asked to do that in the set up). Both were exhausted by the end.
TL;DR: First half it was a case of Hull defending well and Villa not taking chances. Villa then took a nap at HT and never woke up -- put on all the strikers and looked terrible. Go have a pint.