Aston Villa’s first match in almost two weeks was an early afternoon trip to Wolverhampton. The ‘early’ 12.30 kickoff in the UK, and depending where you are in the US, you may just be dreading how early you have to set your alarm on the weekend for this one.
Wolves sat two points and a few places ahead of Villa on the table going into the day with 17 points and Villa at 15, but with two games in hand still on most of the table.
Wolves are still obviously missing Raul Jimenez, who fractured his skull against Arsenal. Villa made two changes to the XI that has begun the season rather consistently. Bertrand Traore was in for Trezeguet and the young Jacob Ramsey made his first Premier League start, in for Ross Barkley who is still injured with his hamstring problem. Ramsey was chosen in front of Conor Hourihane, who started in Barkley’s role at West Ham.
It was a tight game from the start, with half-chances coming for both sides fairly early on and throughout the first half. Wolves were comfortable playing their game, letting Villa dominate possession and trying to break on the counter.
It wasn’t too rough of an encounter between the two Midlands teams, but certainly referee Mike Dean made it one. Four yellow cards in the first half, three of them to Villa.
First Douglas Luiz (14’), then Matty Cash (29’), then John McGinn right after Cash’s (30’). Douglas Luiz’s becomes significant later on, I’ll get to that. But Matty Cash’s booking immediately means he’ll miss the Burnley match with his fifth yellow of the season.
The best chances in the first half came for Wolves, as Emi Martinez actually had to make a handful of comfortable saves. Jack Grealish had some good plays worked in and around the box, but never really had a dangerous shot on goal that wasn’t blocked by a defender. Some good crosses in from both sides as well but nothing really threatening.
Halftime was 0-0. (3-1 Villa on yellow cards).
Second half was more of the same, especially when it came to Mike Dean and his yellow cards. Five more, totaling NINE in the entire game. Two reds from the yellows that will be explained here too, don’t worry.
There were some better chances this half, albeit from Wolves mainly with Emi Martinez making big saves, and the hosts also hitting the post from a quick break forward.
Ollie Watkins had a good shot from inside the box deflected and saved nicely by Rui Patricio, and that was probably the biggest chance of the game for Villa. (Wait for it…)
Anwar El Ghazi came on for Bertrand Traore in the 75’. (Still wait for it…)
In the 85’, Douglas Luiz was shown a second yellow card for a flailing elbow to a Wolves player when he jumped. Probably a yellow card, but of course Mike Dean had to give it, just to make sure he showed red in this game. This was the turning point in the match, so it seemed.
Villa took the ensuing pressure of the last five minutes of the 90 minutes, and Wolves had a couple of half-chances that were gathered comfortably.
The actual biggest moment of the game came in the +5 minutes of added time. In the 92’ on the Villa attack, Jack Grealish played an overlap pass to John McGinn who touched it around the Wolves defender Nelson Semedo and wiggled goal-side of him in the box. Semedo made the contact with McGinn from behind that he just couldn’t afford to make, and the penalty was given to Villa as John McGinn went tumbling over.
Anwar El Ghazi was the one who stepped up and smashed the penalty into the back of the net sending the keeper the wrong way. Jack Grealish and others always praise El Ghazi’s finishing ability in training, it’s great to see him score the winner, especially after coming on as a sub.
Joao Moutinho was shown a second yellow card in the 95’ after only getting his first yellow ten minutes earlier. Classic Mike Dean game. 9 yellows, two reds, a stoppage time penalty. I’m just happy Villa somehow benefited from it in the end!
Mike Dean's game by numbers:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 12, 2020
◎ 38 free-kicks awarded
◎ 9 yellow cards
◎ 2 red cards
◎ 1 penalty awarded
A classic Mike Dean performance. pic.twitter.com/eees04zan4
Might not be a ‘deserved’ win to many, but I think a draw could’ve been a fair result. Would’ve taken that too, but definitely will take these three points!!!
Up to 8th place now for Villa with the two games in hand. Onto Burnley this Thursday at Villa Park.