Aston Villa’s Carabao Cup run started much differently under Dean Smith, this season. After crashing out last season with a second round 1-0 loss at Burton Albion, Smith made ten changes from the side that won 2-0 at home to Everton. Smith’s new look side rewarded the skipper stepping into the competition’s third round with a clinical 6-1 win at League Two Crewe Alexandra.
Despite for stretches in the first half looking like a team with very little time together, Villa bagged an early goal after an initial bright start. Ezri Konsa headed in a Kourtney Hause volley inside the box after Villa won a hard-fought corner. Crewe felt hard done by after Keinan Davis earned the corner with some physical play, but Villa’s early energy was rewarded with a scrappy goal.
Despite the thumping, Crewe were not without their moments in the first half. Porter won a corner off Steer with a nice shot into the turf which the Villa keeper needed to parry over the crossbar. On the ensuing corner Dale found the back of the net but the effort was ruled offside as Villa cleared their lines.
Villa’s second of the first half came from direct play over the top. Henri Lansbury ran onto a ball behind the Crewe back line and slid a pass over to Connor Hourihane. Hourihane slid the ball into the goal and Villa took a 2-0 lead 24 minutes in. Hourihane added to his brace in first-half stoppage time with a header off the foot of Anwar El Ghazi and Villa’s lead looked insurmountable.
Despite a bight start from Crewe in the second half, Villa doubled up later in the second half. Jack Grealish made an appearance in the 68th minute and to immediate effect crossed to Keinan Davis for Villa’s fourth. Frederic Gilbert added a fifth when the Crewe defense fell asleep on a corner, taking Lansbury’s pass and slotting it into the far side of the net. Villa finished off their sixth on Lansbury’s third assist of the night. Lansbury neatly back-heeled a pass to an encroaching Grealish who smashed the ball low and hard away from Crewe’s Dave Richards.
Crewe had previously pulled back to 5-1 after a nice run by Ryan Wintle in the 83rd minute. Wintle sliced through the Villa defense and slotted a nice shot past a diving Steer into the lower left-hand corner. It was little reward for a side that didn’t park the bus and gave Villa plenty to think about going forward. Crewe did manage 17 shots - one more than Villa - with six on target. Villa managed seven on target on only one didn’t find the back of the net.
One note of concern for Aston Villa, Matt Targett left the game in the 34th minute with a leg problem. Gilbert showed some promise on the opposite side, but it’ll be wait and see to assess the situation with Targett.
Villa remain a work in progress but getting off to a winning start in any competition can breed confidence. It also won’t hurt for Villa to have an extra game or two early in the season. The third-round draw will take place on Wednesday night for fixtures being played the week of September 23.
Aston Villa - 4-3-3: Steer, Targett (Guilbert 34), Hause, Konsa, Elmohamady, Nakamba, Lansbury, Hourihane, El Ghazi, Jota (Grealish 68), Davis (Archer 82).
Crewe Alexandra - 4-3-3: Richards, Adebisi, Nolan, Lancashire, Ng, Kirk (Finney 66), Ainley, Wintle, Lowery (Jones 68), Dale, Porter (Anene 46)