Everyone knows Aston Villa play a more dynamic and driving game with Jack Grealish in the lineup. When he marshalls the midfield, Villa can be quite prolific. With him out of the lineup, Villa can look lost and listless in the attacking third. Saturday afternoon at Villa Park reminded everyone what’s possible with Grealish on the pitch as Villa ripped four goals past Derby County in a thrilling first-half rout of the Rams.
Early on it looked as if Villa would have its chances and within the first 10 minutes Villa had their first goal. Grealish turned and lifted a long pass to Tammy Abraham who tapped it over to Conor Hourihane. Hourihane slotted the shot past Scott Carson and Villa took a 1-0 lead.
Albert Adomah missed a wide-open shot over the bar in the 20th minute but in the end the missed opportunity wasn’t going to be needed. In the 37th minute, Abraham tapped in a gorgeous pass from Ahmed Elmohamady as Villa broke out of their own half and Villa doubled their lead.
Villa scored a third, Hourihane’s second of the first half, to put the game away at 3-0. But the goal only served as preamble to Grealish’s worldie in first-half penalty time. Villa earned another of their eight corners on the afternoon. Grealish then took Whelan’s corner pass on the volley and smashed the ball into the upper-left hand corner of the net for a stunning fourth goal. On another day, it would have just been another remarkable goal from Grealish. But upon his return from injury, Grealish announced that Villa, with him in the side, is a threat to score at any moment. With the first half coming to a close, Villa capped a 7-0 run against Frank Lampard’s team in the last two halves of football between the sides.
Up 4-0, Villa’s defense calmly and cooly dispatched Derby County attacks. Jed Steer’s goal was never really under any pressure as Derby failed to record a shot on target. One moment of worry occurred in the 67th minute as Tommy Elphick went down without contact with what appeared to be a pretty serious knee injury. Elphick’s reaction as he fell to the turf suggested the central defender will miss quite a bit of time.
Glenn Whelan, who has been in for a bit of stick the past couple of weeks, was absolutely outstanding. Whelan spent the afternoon breaking up Derby attack after attack and turning them into Villa counters. With Grealish as an outlet, Whelan played decisive balls out to the midfield and sat in front of the back four keeping Derby at bay.
The win pushes Villa up to 11th with 11 games to play. They trail Bristol City by six points and the Robins still have a game in hand. But Villa have served noticed that those above the table should be looking in their rearview mirror. With Grealish in the lineup, Villa have the ability to batter some of the best sides in the Championship.
Aston Villa: Steer, Elmohamady, Elphick (Taylor 67), Mings, Hause, Hourihane, Whelan, Grealish (Carroll 71), Adomah, El Ghazi (Green 80), Abraham
Derby County: Carson, Wisdom, Keogh, Tomori, Cole (Malone 45), Bird, Evans (Wilson 45), Jozefzoon, Holmes, Bennett (Bogle 55), Marriott