Five versus six is always a big match in the Championship. With only a handful of matches to go — it grows in stature. Add in the fact that three points means a sizable gap to seventh — and we’ve got ourselves a table set for a high pressure football match.
Dean Smith was forced into a few changes. Fans knew about Mings being suspended — Mile Jedinak was chosen to fill in as he was for the Rotherham match. Then there was the surprise.
Confirmed: Jack Grealish is OUT of today's game with Bristol City through illness. Big blow for Villa. #avfc— matt maher (@mjmarr_star) April 13, 2019
Well crap. Best player and captain out. Dean Smith picked Glenn Whelan to start and wear the arm band — as fans wondered if this match without Jack would be an improvement over the previous period. Dean Smith has been with the club long enough that he should have a plan B.
But enough of setting the table — let’s get to the match.
90 seconds into the match and Villa made their first mistake. Tuanzebe lost the ball in the defensive end — and he took huge issue with Elmohamady after the play. But thankfully the Bristol City attacker sent the shot wide and Villa’s blushes were spared.
Besides the one big mistake Villa were on top of the opening minutes of the match. The team was comfortable with the ball — and looked for long passes out to the wings. The pressure down the wings makes sense without Grealish — the danger is hollowing out the middle of the attack.
Bristol City’s Matty Taylor could have easily gotten on the score sheet ten minutes into the match. A cross got by Elmohamady and Taylor was at the far post all alone. Thankfully he put it wide.
A minute later it was the Villa wingers opportunity to open the scoring. El Ghazi took a powerful shot from outside the box. The keeper deflected it to a waiting Albert Adomah — who headed it toward the goal but the woodwork denied him. Adomah should have scored (and would have last year).
Then the yellow cards started coming out.
Marlon Pack picked up an early yellow card when he intentionally blocked a free kick that McGinn was trying to take quickly. It was a professional decision and a clear yellow.
Less than a minute later — it was McGinn’s turn to take a professional yellow card. A corner kick was cleared and Elmohamady ran up and took control of the ball. Then he had the ball picked off his feet when he hesitated to either shoot or put the ball out wide. McGinn stopped the counter attack — and took his yellow and gave Elmohamady a talking to.
Then Matty Taylor picked up a yellow for a nasty challenge on McGinn.
Three yellow cards in less than five minutes.
Elmohamady tried to make up for his error with an attacking run and a great cross to Abraham. Tammy controlled it perfectly with his chest. Then McGinn and Tammy both tried to shoot at the same time... both wanted to score. And both prevented the other from the chance. I like the aggressiveness from both of them but it backfired this time.
A quarter hour in — the ball found the back of the net. Former Villa man Andreas Weimann was in perfect position to deflect a cross with his head over Jed Steer. His hands went up not to celebrate against the team he grew up with. The a raised flag prevented him the opportunity not to celebrate — and the match remained 0-0. But it was Bristol City on top of the play.
Also the Bristol City bench picked up two yellows.
At the half an hour mark Aston Villas attack looked to click. Six or seven passes found Conor Hourihane in the box. He headed a cross from the top of the six yard box but Max O’Leary made a brilliant reaction save. It was one of those opportunities that should have been a goal but you have to applaud the opposing kicker.
On the edge of the break McGinn (once again) slid by a defender and Jack Hunt was forced to take him down right outside the box. Whelan and Hourihane stepped up (and El Ghazi was not happy about it). Hunt picked up a yellow. Sadly the ball in from Hourihane was terrible. Not even close to the goal as he tried to catch the keeper napping at the near post.
The break came and went with no changes. And some of the Villa fan base took notice of West Brom, Middlesbrough, & Derby all winning at the half.
The ball was put in the net three minutes into the second half. This time the flag thwarted Tammy Abraham. The flag was late so cruelly it looked like Abraham was going to be allowed to play through — but he was not.
Max O’Leary once again put his name in the highlights by once again stopped a certain Hourihane goal. The attack started with El Ghazi — who fired a long shot. It was parried away — but fell to Tammy Abraham. Tammy shots was blocked right to Conor in the six yard box. He should have scored but a hand of O’Leary denied him.
Hourihane continued to find himself in the box — clearly he was allowed to push forward without Jack. While waiting for a cross he went down in the box and the referee did not hesitate to point to the spot giving Villa their third penalty in two matches. Andreas Weimann picked up a yellow — not sure for the foul or for arguing.
Tammy Abraham stepped up and fired the ball into the back of the net — and put Villa ahead. So happy to see Abraham make up for his miss during the midweek match.
After the goal Bristol made a double change as Nathan Baker and Kasey Palmer replaces Eliasson and Taylor. So another former Villa player out joined the game.
Right after the sub John McGinn could have doubled Aston Villa’s lead. Hourihane turned down the opportunity to shoot and passed it back to a waiting McGinn. The pass had a little too much on it so McGinn was forced to volley it and it went right to the keeper who gratefully grabbed it.
Hourihane missed ANOTHER chance in the 63rd minute when he flicked a header over the net. That makes three really good chances for the Irish midfielder — two denied by O’Leary and the header off target.
But then — there was chance number four! El Ghazi brought the ball in from the right side — and played a smooth through pass to a running Hourihane. This time Conor rolled the ball into the far corner of the net. It was Conor’s most difficult chance of the night — but it was the one that counted!
With 20 minutes left Tammy Abraham was down and looked to be struggling with an injury — Dean Smith was taking no chances sending on Keinan Davis. Tammy limped off as everyone held their breath. The announcers seemed confident that it was a minor thing.
Villa seemed relaxed now that the lead was two. Too relaxed.
Aston Villa’s defense could and should have cleared the ball multiple times. But Diedhiou was allowed too much space and hit an overhead kick into the net off the post. It was poor defending — and brought the visitors back into the match.
El Ghazi and Taylor giving the ball away to see Bristol score. 2-1 pic.twitter.com/w9vicvv4Zq— Arctic Lions (@ArcticLions) April 13, 2019
Villa responded very well — it was El Ghazi AGAIN who unlocked the Bristol defense from the left side. Neil Taylor made a great attacking run and the winger found him in the box. Only a strong boot from O’Leary kept the scoreline at 2-1.
With 12 minutes to go — Conor Hourihane was applauded off as Henri Lansbury came on. Hourihane played very well — but Smith was likely thinking about fresh legs at the end of a long week.
Villa kept pushing for a third goal. Mile Jedinak headed off a corner from El Ghazi but it was blocked by a defender in good position. John McGinn could have added to his tally. The energentic midfielder was sent on a huge run after Davis stole the ball away from the Bristol City midfield. McGinn couldn’t keep his shot on target through.
Then it was Keinan Davis’ turn to almost score. He did brilliantly to hold up the ball after 6 minutes were added (no bloody clue where that all came from). But O’Leary again saved Bristol. Off the corner Johnk McGinn slid passed two defenders and was also denied by the keeper — who really was fantastic for the visitors.
With the help of the entire team — Aston Villa held on through a long six minutes. When the final whistle blew — John McGinn collapsed to the ground and no one could blame him.
in a row.
Dean Smith got it right today with Jack Grealish. And the players worked their socks off. Proud of the performance and the result.
Up the Villa