The Tuesday results were mixed for Villa with Derby losing and Bristol City holding off a late charge to beat West Brom.
I’m sure every Villa fan (and I’d bet players too) looked at the table and started thinking about the huge matchup Saturday against Bristol City. And that means a midweek trip to Rotherham had banana peel written all over it.
But enough of setting the table — lets get to the match.
Whelan, Green, and Hause were dropped out of the lineup — Hourihane, Green & Tuanzebe in. Hause was for injury — the other two part were rotation for the midweek match.
The opening 90 seconds showed some of the nerves. Neil Taylor held on to the ball for too long and it was taken off him in the defensive end. Rotherham very nearly took the early lead but some pressure from a tracking back Jack Grealish helped put the attacker off enough that the shot went wide. Less than a minute later Steer had to make a save.
At the five minute mark, Elmohamady pulled a pass back to Adomah who fired on net — but the ball was cleared out. Then it was a Hourihane shot from distance that a defender blocked.
The back and forth start continued with Rotherham on the offensive when a shot from the top of the box forced Steer to dive to his left and catch the ball. The offensive pressure continued after a silly foul from John McGinn gave the hosts a free kick from an attacking area — but the shot went well wide.
At the ten minute mark (and yes the opening 10 minutes were this busy — plus back and forth) Jack Grealish ventured down the left and was bundled into by a Rotherham defender in the box. Penalty to Villa. Tammy Abraham grabbed the ball and looked to to be full of confidence as he stepped up. The shot was rolled to the lower corner — and the Rotherham goalie guessed right (and by that I mean left) and easily parried the shot that didn’t have much behind it.
A disappointing outcome from the Chelsea loanee.
Mings picked up a yellow card for retaliation after being shoved in the back of the head. Then Adomah was taken down by a kinda nasty looking shot to the knee — as passion/aggressiveness started to grow. Thankfully the winger re-entered the match right away.
After the break in play Villa looked to have calmed down and began to take more possession in the match. But it was tough going because Rotherham had their tails up and were ready for the fight. But the visitors could do nothing to break down the defense.
In the 34’ — the deadlock was broken — and not in a good way. A cross came into the box (after being slightly deflected) and it was judged to have been controlled by Mings’ arm. Yellow card and penalty. And — because of the earlier booking — that mean the center back was sent walking.
Will Vaulks sent the penalty with pace right down the middle while Jed Steer dove out of the way — and the hosts took a 1-0 lead.
Albert Adomah was the casualty to reorganize the defense as Mile Jedinak came on for the first time since early February.
As the first half ticked away Dean Smith picked up a yellow card for taking issue with the linesman missing a 40 yard offside call. It wasn’t the only ... questionable ... decision by the crew — but still the referees were not the reason Villa were down at the half.
Halftime offered Dean Smith a chance to reorganize the 10-man team and try to create some attacking opportunities against a Rotherham side who were likely to sit back and protect the lead and three precious points in the relegation fight. Smith did so by taking El Ghazi out at the half — and replacing him with Jonathan Kodjia.
A minute into the second half Jack Grealish tried his luck from outside the box — but the keeper was equal to it. The attack was switched to the right to a running Elmohamady. His cross was hit hard and a jumping defender blocked it with his arm. The referee did not hesitate to point to the spot for the THIRD penalty of the match. This time was was Jonathan Kodjia who stepped up — despite not having touched the ball yet in the match. It didn’t matter — Kodjia made no mistake in tying up the match.
But Aston Villa were not done yet.
Jack Grealish took the ball on the left side attack and a give-and-go sent him in to the middle of the field. Instead of trying a long shot he rolled the ball out to an attacking Elmohamady. He also turned down the shot — and his usual high cross — to pull it back to the middle of the box. And Jack Grealish sent the ball into the lower right corner — and Villa into the lead.
Full disclosure — after the goal my AVTV died for few minutes. So I spend the time rewatching that goal. It was so good. What a team goal — especially with 10 men.
Villa defended a slew of corner kicks. And apparently Steer was forced to make at least one nice save.
At the hour mark, John McGinn tried to curl a shot into the far corner but it was well wide. But it was nice having moving pictures back!
Kodjia grew into the game as the second half ticked along. He made multiple drives from the right side of attack but sadly the end product (both in terms of shots and passes) was not quite there.
Rotherham kept pushing though and nearly equalized from a pair of set pieces. The first was a free kick from Villa’s left — the shot from the dead ball went just wide. A minute later a long throw fell to Rotherham’s Taylor — but his shot was deflected over by a Jedinak touch. With fifteen minutes left in the match — it was the hosts on top and Villa’s legs were starting to go — compounded by the midweek match and number disadvantage.
Hourihane very nearly added a third with 12 mins left. Villa passed the ball well and it was McGinn in the box who fired a cross in. A Rotherham defender headed it along — but right to Jack Grealish. The Captain pulled it back to Hourihane who fired it toward the lower corner — but the keeper got there in time and kept the score at 1-2. And the nerves built for the fans.
The Villa players, on the other hand, seemed to relish the challenge of holding the lead despite being down a man. Abraham, Kodjia, McGinn, and Grealish all worked to hold the ball up. The make-shift backline held together — while being covered well by Conor Hourihane. Glenn Whelan came on late for Jack Grealish to add some fresh legs and he helped see Aston Villa to a remarkable turn around win on the road to make it 7 wins in a row.
In a Row.
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Up the Villa!