The three moments that defined Aston Villa’s win over Southampton at St Mary’s...
#3: Cash In Hand
Villa were for once on the right end of two VAR decisions against Southampton; the first of which came just under 10 minutes into the match.
Danny Ings’ sublime flick in the penalty area lifted the ball over Douglas Luiz, and the striker laid the ball back to the oncoming Stuart Armstrong whose seemingly goal bound effort was ‘saved’ by Villa right back, Matty Cash.
Referee Lee Mason waved away the home side appeals for, what in real time, looked a stonewall penalty, and after several replays both sets of fans were left scratching their heads as to how a penalty hadn’t been given.
As it turned out, the ball had taken the slightest of slight deflections off Cash’s thigh before striking his hand, which following another mid-season rule change is no longer punishable with a penalty kick.
Technically speaking, the right decision was reached, but similar to Manchester City’s opener the other week, it didn’t feel quite right and Villa certainly got away with one early in the encounter.
#2: Barkley Winner
Villa struggled to impose themselves as an attacking force in the opening half an hour.
Southampton had a lot of possession, but the penalty incident aside, the Villa back-line were defending well, limiting the home side to very few clear cut chances.
In his post match interviews, Dean Smith said he felt Southampton were cutting through his side too easily, so he tweaked the way Villa pressed after 30 minutes – and boy did it pay off.
Just before taking the lead, Villa had started to liven up and Ollie Watkins came close to making it three goals in three games, when he turned on a sixpence from Matt Targett’s delivery and forced Alex McCarthy into a fine save.
Not long after, with just four minutes of the half remaining, Villa scored a goal full of quality.
A quick switch of play from Luiz found Targett, who set Jack Grealish scampering down the left wing with a clever ball over the top of stand-in right back, James Ward-Prowse.
Grealish delivered a superb first time, left foot half volley cross into a dangerous area, where Ross Barkley’s brilliantly executed header left McCarthy rooted to the spot as it nestled into the bottom corner.
It was the first moment of real quality in the game and given Villa’s record this season when taking the lead of nine wins and just the solitary defeat, it put the away side in a strong position going into the break.
#1: VAR To The Rescue Again
The second half saw Villa content to try and soak up the pressure from Southampton whilst hitting them on the counter attack where possible.
It wasn’t until the introduction of Che Adams at the 65th minute mark where the home side threatened to get back into the game; forcing Emi Martinez into a fine save.
With five minutes remaining, Martinez produced a stunning save from a Southampton corner and the resulting melee produced two goal line blocks from John McGinn and Matty Cash, respectively.
Martinez was finally beaten three minutes into stoppage time, with Ings following up to tap in the rebound after Ryan Bertrand’s initial effort was saved.
However, Ings’ joy was short lived as the offside flag was raised, meaning a VAR check ruled Ings’ shirt sleeve to be in an offside position; allowing Villa to register their 10th clean sheet of the season.
Having been on the receiving end of this type of decision twice already this season (i.e., Watkins’ strikes against West Ham and West Brom), Villa fans will have little sympathy for their opponents.
The offside law seems to cause nothing but confusion and frustration for fans up and down the country, but as Dean Smith said post match: “it is what it is.”
It seems mad that Villa could lose the game in midweek, yet come away from this match with a win, but I suppose that’s the beauty of football for you!
An excellent result to take into the upcoming home fixture with West Ham.