Villa made the trip to an in-form Brighton and Dean Smith made one change to his lineup brining back in Douglas Luiz for Marvelous Nakamba, who can feel a little hard done but Luiz offers more going forward.
It really is nice to have a standard formation and a regular lineup. It creates momentum, allows for players to get comfortable with each other and set consistent expectations. The danger is fatigue from putting so many miles on the legs in such a short time, especially recently.
Brighton started on the front foot creating a few half chances but thanks to a Traore header on a corner and a Douglas Luiz block of a cross the opening 8 minutes did not lead to a real chance. The next two minutes had two Brighton chances, Cash did well to head a cross away and Alexis Mac Allister headed wide. Fair to call it a slow start from Aston Villa.
After Lewis Dunk left some stud marks on Ollie Watkins, the team appeared to wake up a bit. Grealish started to move around a little more picking up the ball. Douglas Luiz had a shot blocked out for a corner — after the corner Alzate was carded for a foul on Grealish (drink) after an excellent pass from Luiz. Traore took the ensuing free kick near the spot where the box and end line meet — but it was easily cleared. After it, Grealish picked up a yellow for stopping a counter attack caused by a rare poor first touch by the captain.
McGinn and Traore had a poor opening 30 minutes in particular with misplaced passes and poor touches leading to Brighton possession and chances. Watkins changed his boots in the 33 minute. Why am I including that? Because that’s how poor the opening half was for the visitors. Some credit to Brighton, especially in the opening 20 — Villa deserve more of the blame after that for just being poor and giving the ball away.
Martinez made his first great save in minute 38 by pushing a Trossard shot from distance out for a corner. He followed that up with another diving save on the second corner (the first led to it). On the third, Targett hit the ball clear, then he blocked a follow up shot, and Mings blocked yet another follow up — leading to a fourth corner. Watkins drew a foul after a Targett clearance to relieve the pressure. But Brighton were the only team looking like scoring.
One minute was added to the half, and it was unwanted and unnecessary. The whistle blew making ending a poor 45’ of football. (Writer being honest — I stopped watching at 42’ to watch the U.S. Senate vote on impeachment)
No changes were made during the break. And Ross Barkley opened the half with Villa’s first shot on target. It was hit right at the keeper and easily saved. But it was a start. Martinez then made a much more difficult save off a deflection and the scoreboard remained 0-0 after two early chances).
Matty Cash went down just short of the hour mark grabbing for what I am hoping was a cramp — what could end up being a hamstring. Ahmed Elmohamady came on at right back. The defense continued to be under pressure — and continued to be resolute with blocks and patience. Oh and Emi Martinez being sepctacualr — with another diving save in 64’ from Joël Veltman with a slight deflection.
Trezeguet came on for Traore at 65’, for the usual wing swap.
Luiz picked up a yellow with 20 mins left — seemed a bit harsh to me.
Brighton continued to pound on the Villa defense. Mings was huge at the back a few times. Villa’s midfield was nowhere to be seen.
Morgan Sanson came on as the final Villa substitution with 15’ left for a poor Ross Barkley. Right away he made a nice run after a pass to Trezeguet — he was ignored but the space he created allowed a cut in run from the Egyptian winger — who was fouled by Trossard who earned a yellow. The free kick came to nothing at all.
The new boy got into the box for a Grealish cross but it was hit by a defender first — and then off Sanson for a goal kick. But a good run and cross — especially for this match.
Emi Martinez again saved the match — this time from Welbeck at the near post. The keeper is man of the match by a mile.
Into the added three minutes, Trezeguet gave away a stupid free kick in a good place for a free kick shot for Brighton. Thankfully for Villans, the wall did the job and the follow up shot was an easy gather for Martinez.
All the praise in the game goes to Martinez — he earned Aston Villa a point. 25 shots from Brighton and a clean sheet. Defense too did well, especially Mings. The less said about the midfield and attack the better.
Up the Villa and on to Leicester City on Sunday, February 21.