Aston Villa on the road in the Championship under Steve Bruce these days is largely copy-and-paste. Just pick any of the following: a confounding setup, general ambivalence by the players to the proceedings for most of the game, a spell of attacking dominance without a final product, and a moment of individual brilliance which whitewashes the entire affair into a hard-earned away point.
So on Friday night at Ashton Gate another control-Villa affair saw the visitors draw 1-1 with Bristol City in a match plagued with all of the ongoing problems with Villa these days. It’s now one win in nine or thereabout across all competitions for Bruce’s men. Because, I mean, who's counting anymore when its all so predictable?
Was a first half stoppage time equalizer but still. Somehow this just won’t be enough to make a needed change https://t.co/1DqYgG60fN— 7500 to Holte (@7500toHolte) September 28, 2018
Bruce made two changes from the side that stumbled against Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday with Albert Adomah and Ahmed Elmohamady making way for Birkir Bjarnason and Axel Tuanzebe. Enter confounding setup. With Kodjia and Grealish out wide, Villa’s main goal-scoring threat mostly had the ball 30 to 40 yards from goal and its midfield maestro marginalized to the touchline.
Cue general ambivalence. Once again Villa started aimlessly and paid the price. Bristol City pressured high up the pitch and dared Villa to break them down. When Villa failed to gain a foothold on the proceedings, Bristol City was rewarded for its aggressive approach on just after the quarter hour with Josh Brownhill netting a deflected goal putting the Robins up 1-0. It’s hard to argue it wasn’t deserved. Villa’s attack at the time consisted mainly of long Conor Hourihane crosses and long balls up to Tammy Abraham.
The rest of the of first half looked like much of the same until Hourihane stood over a free kick in what was certain to be the final play of the first half. Enter moment of individual brilliance. Hourihane delivered a gorgeous arcing free kick onto the head of Biker Bjarnason to level the match 1-1 as the first half whistle blew.
Enter spell of attacking dominance. Villa began the second half brightly, going after a lethargic-looking Bristol City. Villa pressed for the go ahead goal and earned a series of promising corners and goal-scoring opportunities. Five minutes into the a half, another Villa corner appeared to win a penalty as a Bristol City defender fell on the ball in the box. But these are Championship referees and no spot kick was awarded and Villa settled for another corner. In all, Villa won eight corners to City’s three, but even Villa’s possession dominance couldn’t see them over the hump in a ragged and unentertaining second half.
John McGinn had another look at a wonder goal in the 55th minute as his low lashing effort into the left-hand side of the net was parried away by Niki Maenpaa. Hourihane almost delivered late again but his 89th minute strike from outside the box curled beyond the left post. It would have been a classic Hourihane strike but it wasn’t meant to be. Also concerning, Abraham came off in extra time with an apparent injury.
Enter hard-earned point. The win pushes Villa up to 11th on 14 points. Surely Villa mid-table at the quarter post of the season isn’t what anyone had in mind. And each dire performance makes Bruce’s post-Rotherham rant just that much more pathetic.
Aston Villa (4-1-3-2 or maybe 4-1-4-1) - Nyland, Tuanzebe, Chester, Jedinak, Hutton, Bjarnason, McGinn, Hourihane, Grealish, Kodjia (Bolasie 75), Abraham (Adomah 90+1)
Bristol City (4-2-2) - Maenpaa, Hunt, Webster, Baker, Kelly, Eliasson (Watkins 87), Brownhill, Pack, O’Dowda (Paterson 68), Taylor (Diedhiou 68), Weimann.