The final preseason match saw Dean Smith pick what could be the lineup next week — Heaton, Guilbert, Mings, Engels, Targett, Hourihane, McGinn, Grealish, Jota, El Ghazi, Wesley.
On the bench (more like benches) was the rest of the squad — Nyland, Kalinic, Taylor, Lansbury, Hogan, Marvelous, Bree, Davis, Bjarnason, Trezeguet, Kodjia, Elmohamady, Tshibola, Hause, Suliman, O’Hare
I can’t really speak to the opening few minutes because they were spent trying to be able to watch the match.
Villa were first to put the ball into the net after Wesley earned a free kick right on the edge of the box. Both sides knew who was going to take the kick. But that didn’t help the defense as Conor Hourihane does what Conor Hourihane does — score a free kick goal.
RB Leipzig pushed after the opening goal and pilled pressure on the Villa defense. Newly arrived keeper Tom Heaton showed exactly why we was was brought in as the Club’s #1 keeper making a few really nice saves. But the hosts caught Villa full backs too high up the pitch (which is going to happen with Dean Smith and the attacking minded fullbacks) — a deflected shot dropped right to Yussuf Poulsen on the far post and he made no mistake to even up the match.
Aston Villa responded well to the goal — Mings hit the crossbar off a nice cross from a free kick. Leipzig pushed as well forcing Mings and Engels to be on their toes. It was a physical and well played first half — my stream died with a few mins to go but I’m going to presume that it carried on in the way it was for the first 40ish minutes. At the break Villa had to feel good about being knotted up away to a Champion’s League side— yes with the giant caveat that this is preseason.
The second half started with a flurry. John McGinn very nearly scored after picking up a bad giveaway but the angles was a little too tight and the ball ended up in the side netting. Then, once again, Tom Heaton was called on for an excellent save down to his left.
Tom Heaton continued his man of the match form. I mean just look at this save.
Leipzig continued to be the better team — pushing Villa back. Jack worked through the midfield but was unable to really bring Wesley into the game well. The Brazilian striker was happy to drop deep and help out though. I don’t mean this paragraph to sound negative — it makes me happy to see Villa being pushed by a top tier squad. It is going to happen this year in the PL.
It was El Ghazi’s run down the left that lead to a decent chance around the hour mark. He pulled it back but Wesley couldn’t make good enough contact. The ball feel to McGinn in acres of space near the penalty spot but his shot was blocked by a defender.
Honestly — McGinn didn’t have a great match. Leipzig players were happy to enter the physical contests with him and I think that threw him off. He just wasn’t quite on his game. But — to no one’s surprise — he never stopped giving the effort.
With 15 mins left — El Ghazi was taken out by a nasty challenge from a Leipzig player. The winger was clearly in some pain (and it sure sounded like he was screaming in pain at one point). He was taken off for Trezeguet. He picked up a yellow card on his way out — my guess is he was trying to walk toward the bench and not the quickest exit of the near sideline. Odd choice from the ref. No card given for the tackle. News when we have it.
Kodjia is back and replaced Wesley. Tempers continued to flare after the double sub. More yellows came out as the referee tried (and failed) to control the game.
RB Leipzig were reminded a second time of the absolute ability of Conor Hourihane with 8 minutes to go. In fairness to the hosts — it took a big deflection — but it was in the net putting Villa back ahead of the #3 German team in last year’s table.
Mings really should have finished off RB on another set piece but he just couldn’t get his feet to another Hourihane peach of a free kick.
On the edge of 90 mins — John McGinn proved my earlier paragraph wrong. He made it 1-3 with an excellent finish.
All in all an excellent test for the final preseason match. 90 mins from most of the lineup — with no signs of fatigue.
Bring on the Premier League!!
Quick additional match thoughts.
Tom Heaton is good.
Gilbert is an aggressive full back — he will pick up fouls and likely cards (had 9 yellows and a red last year in France).
El Ghazi is now on injury watch — and that is not great.
Dean Smith has a tough choice with Hourihane or a DM.