Aston Villa returned to winning ways with a 3-0 win over Reading at Villa Park on Tuesday night. The win, Villa’s first since their romp against Wolverhampton Wanderers almost a month ago, keeps Villa in the top four and seven points from second-place Cardiff City with six games yet to play. Goals from Birkir Bjarnason, Conor Hourihane, and Scott Hogan provided the difference.
Manager Steve Bruce made five changes to a starting XI after Villa’s lacklustre performance at Hull over the weekend. Ahmed Elmohamady and Neil Taylor slotted in at the back, Hourihane and Bjarnason took places in the midfield, and Hogan replaced newcomer Lewis Grabban up top as Bruce’s new-look, old-look midfield delivered the goals.
Everything set up nicely for Villa to get back on form and find the back of the net against Reading even before Scott Edwards earned a second yellow inside the first half hour. Reading were down to 10 men before even getting started. Villa dominated play in the first 30 minutes, but wasted every one of their five shots on goal. Scott Hogan sent an attempt wide early in the 4th minute and Bjarnason sqaundered a prime opportunity in front of goal just minutes later. Albert Adomah followed with a 24th minute attempt over the bar and while Villa were getting chances thanks to a barrage of crosses from Robert Snodgrass, Elmohamady, and Adomah, Villa failed to find the target.
Few people at Villa bemoaning the footy on display. That's honestly been one of our best footballing first halves this season.— James Rushton (@Jamorushton) April 3, 2018
Villa dominated play early, earning 70%-plus of the possession in the first half. They started to find the target, but in all, 12 attempts from Villa failed to break the deadlock. Reading cleared the box a remarkable 27 times in the first 45 minutes and somehow both sides headed into halftime deadlocked.
Villa’s best chance early came in the 34th minute when Grealish picked out Adomah breaking down the right after a brief stint of Reading possession. Adomah’s cross looked targeted for a sliding Hogan, but Reading’s Vito Mannone was perfectly positioned to smother the goal mouth attempt before it presented any danger.
Villa finally breached Reading’s defense with strike from Bjarnason right after the stroke of halftime. Snodgrass and Grealish opened up Reading’s defense and Bjarnason exploited the space and delivered a curling strike into the upper left corner from the top of the D.
Reading, battered after the early second half goal, showed little initiative being down to 10 men. Villa continued running at the Royals and their enterprise was rewarded with a second goal on 63 minutes off the head of Hourihane. Hourihane redirected a failed header from a Reading defender after a cross from Snodgrass and Villa completed the job.
In the 70th minute Villa added a third to pile on the misery for Reading. Mannone tried to play out from the back, and as Hogan closed rapidly, the Royals keeper misplayed the ball off his opposite foot. The ball fell to Hogan who turned, centered himself, and drove the ball into the back of an open net. Villa’s third goal, while not needed, put Hogan back into the scoring column after two months without a goal.
Villa continued to harrass the Reading goal as the visitors showed little in terms of ability and maybe willingness to stop the Villa onslaught. Jonathan Kodjia, on a substitute, pestered the defense in search of his first goal of the season but a few close attempts never came to fruitiion. Villa earned 78% of the possession and outshot the Royals 26-4. Villa completed 742 passes to Reading’s 213.
Full Time whistle blown. Villa take care of business in the second half and hopefully build a little momentum toward the final stretch.— 7500 to Playoffs (@7500toHolte) April 3, 2018
Villa head to Carrow Road on Saturday for a showdown with Norwich City.