Aston Villa desperate at home against Brentford says everything that needs to be said about the Steve Bruce era these days at Villa Park. Bruce, who received a stay of execution barely a month ago from Villa’s new ownership group, ran out his famous Frankenstein lineup to questionable effect Wednesday evening in a 2-2 draw with Brentford. Setting out a conservative XI in a game demanding a positive approach, Bruce continues to test the faithfulness of the Villa fans as his players continue to bail him out.
Jonathan Kodjia’s 95th minute last-gasp header pulled Villa level in a game they deserved to both lose and win. It was Kodjia’s third goal in two games and while it seems like the striker is starting to find his groove, Villa continues to sputter out of the gate. Yet, Villa sits in fifth place early in the season. The early season battle between unbeaten sides left both sides unbeaten. Contradictions abound.
Brentford took the lead in the 23nd minute against the run of play. Absorbing Villa attack after attack, Brentford finally worked the ball out wide in the final third. Sergi Canos crossed to the far post, Ollie Watkins headed back into the center and Brentford’s goal-scoring ace Neal Maupay slammed into the back of the net. It was Maupay’s fourth goal in as many games and Villa’s back four made it far too easy for Brentford to score. Tuanzebe was beaten in the air and Maupay found far too much space in the middle of the box against Villa’s center backs.
Kodjia’s individual effort pulled Villa even in the 39th minute. The forward worked into a one-v-one matchup against Ezri Konza to the right of Brentford’s goal. Kodjia quickly turned the defender and fired near-side into the net past the Bee’s keeper Daniel Bentley. It was Kodjia’s second goal in two games and showcased why he can be a scoring threat even when he’s struggling to link up with the rest of Villa’s attack.
The first half was highlighted by spirited play on both sides. Two questionable misses by the referee - a stamp by Maupay on John McGinn and a potential handball in the Brentford box - showed how Villa just can’t get a break or create one for themselves these days. Ahmed Elmohamady, in an attacking position, had three promising attacking opportunities, but alas, the right-back keeps finding himself out of position.
Villa almost took the lead in the 58th minute but Kodjia fired directly into Bentley’s hand after Albert Adomah ran down a long ball into the left-hand corner and arched a corner to the middle of the box. But a once bright Villa started sitting back and eventually paid for their poor effort. Maupay, the early goal scorer, netted again in the 82nd minute as Villa’s defense failed to clear their lines. Brentford looked poised to once again stymie Villa until Kodjia scored late.
Reinforcements in the form of Anwar El Ghiza and Yannick Bolaise are coming. But will it be enough? The deployment of Ahmed Elmohamady in an attacking role and Mile Jedinak at center back will continue to invite questions about Bruce’s approach.
And yet the approach has yielded eight points in four. None of it has been convincing. Some of it has been fun, some of it has been frustrating. But its a results-oriented league and the numbers favor Bruce. Contradictions indeed.