Saturday started with a team structure change from Aston Villa Manager Dean Smith.
Former Villans Matty Lowton and Ashley Westwood were back at Villa Park and started for Burnley.
Lee Mason was the man in the middle — hoping not to be the center of attention.
The formation — after being speculated about in the pre-match — started with Jack to the left and El Ghazi to the right and the midfield packed with Wesley up front alone. As the half went along — El Ghazi morphed into a second striker at times and Grealish dropped very deep.
The first chance fell — once again — to John McGinn’s head. It was a beautiful cross from Targett in his Villa PL debut. But McGinn couldn’t keep the header on target this week. Villa weren’t alone with the miss — Burley’s Wood missed an open header as well in the seventh minute.
Conor Hourihane reminded everyone of his free kick skill when he hit the goal post after a touch from Jack Grealish. Once again — as the game of copycat continued — McNeil hit the woodwork (the crossbar this time) just a minute after Villa’s miss. Big chances for both sides but somehow the first fifteen minutes came and went 0-0.
Barnes picked up a yellow in the 22’ because he must have said something over the line. He had been in the ear of the referee quite a bit before And Lee Mason, apparently, had enough.
John McGinn was given a chance to make up for his miss in the opening minutes of the match when Conor Hourihane sent in a low cross from the wide left position and the Scottish midfielder slotted it into the corner. It was a moment of joy — but only a moment because VAR ruled Hourihane was offside in the buildup. It was correct call but not fun to be on the bad side of VAR... again.
The reversal added passion to an already chippy match. Fouls were flying in and players on the ground.
Villa continued to be the better side — and the next big attack came on the right side. Guilbert was in loads of space — and was given the freedom to run all the way down the side because the defender did not feel like closing him down. When you give a talented fullback space — he takes it. El Ghazi made a near post run and Guilbert found him. A beautiful touch opened the scoring and VAR couldn’t do a thing about it.
Villa did not sit back after the goal with the Villa midfield winning battle after battle. And McGinn being fouled over and over.
Tarkowski picked up a yellow near the break for a clothesline on Wesley. The forward looked like he made a meal of it but there wasn’t a good replay.
Grealish forced a quality save from Pope after moving past two defenders. Jack picked the right shot too. Just a good save — credit to Pope.
No changes for Villa at the break — Jay Rodriguez came on for Jack Cork for Burnley. Likely a shoulder injury for Cork. I had expected Barnes to exit because he appeared to be approaching out of control anger levels near the break.
Hendrick nearly equalized the match after Wood held the ball up well against Guilbert. The fullback had the opportunity to head it back to Heaton but let it bounce and Wood easily took position and the ball — as expected in that match-up.
Burnley came out the stronger side after the break. But all momentum was stopped when Wesley had a scare. He took a ball to the face from point blank range. He went down spread eagle on the pitch. He appeared to be out. A Villa player — thinking quickly — turned him onto his side just in case. After a few minutes with the medical staff Wesley walked slowly off the pitch.
He then came back on the pitch. Which is a stupid decision. If he was out cold — he shouldn’t be playing. Period.
After the break Villa played better. At the 60’ mark Targett went down grabbing his hamstring. Not great. Could be a cramp... maybe? Neil Taylor came on.
The match settled into a stalemate in the middle of the field. Until it wasn’t. Burnley attacked down their left. El Ghazi got blocked off by Barnes and a cross was sent in. Rodriguez headed the ball into the net to equalize the match.
El Ghazi was unable to continue — Trezeguet came on.
Jack Grealish continued to be the only way forward for Villa as Burnley’s halftime adjustments appeared to take McGinn out of the game. The captain found himself in space at the top of the box but fired well over with 15’ minutes left in the match. Too much power and not enough control.
Westwood picked up a yellow for time wasting.
Substitute Trezeguet made a huge impact down the right. He made a wonderful cross to the far post and it was Super John McGinn to put Villa ahead with 10 minutes left in the 90’. It was a quality confident finish from the midfielder... again. He really is very good.
Sadly — Villa’s defense was not — 90 seconds later. They turned off down their left. A cross was sent in and Wood make a great run to head it home. And once again the match was back on level terms. Two headed goals for Burnley.
Trezeguet picked up a yellow for trying to get Ashley Westwood a second yellow after a foul was called on the former Villa player. My guess is other words were exchanged as well — in a similar way to Barnes’ first half yellow.
Davis entered the pitch for Wesley just short of the 90’ minute mark and with seven added there was plenty of game time left.
Villa — huffed and puffed. Burnley wasted time. Jack gave it every bit of energy he had. But it was not enough to break the deadlock for a third time.
2-2 and another match were Villa here not able to hold the lead. The first half was quality football and the second half was not.