Aston Villa came from behind to win for the first time this season after scoring three goals in nine minutes to beat Fulham 3-1.
Villa’s victory was largely down to the effort and quality shown from super-subs, Trézéguet and Keinan Davis, who combined for Villa’s second goal and fired Villa to a huge three points after a being frustrated for the first 75 minutes.
Still No Jack
One of the main talking points of the game came when Villa’s team was announced without Jack Grealish for the seventh time in a row.
Twitter rumors earlier in the day were confirmed when Grealish didn’t even make the bench, with what seems like an apparent precaution after he pulled up in training yesterday.
In the six games before today, Villa had won five points from a possible 18 and scored just three goals.
A Frustrating First-Half
Both sides traded chances early in the first half, with Ollie Watkins not making the most of an early chance and Aleksandar Mitrović, fresh off the back of scoring five goals in the international break, tested Emiliano Martínez with two shots.
The first half then seemed to lull slightly, with a Douglas Luiz header going wide from a well worked Villa corner and a missed chance at the back-post from Joachim Andersen for Fulham.
The trio of Ademola Lookman, Reuben Loftus-Cheek, and Bobby De Cordova-Reid provided a threat to the Villa defense.
In stoppage time came the talking point of the first-half as Watkins was adjudged to be fouled after he reacted quickly to the ball ahead of Mario Lemina, with the referee pointing to the spot.
It was then the classic case of VAR vs Villa (in particular Watkins), as the referee was instructed to go to the monitor before overturning his decision.
In normal-time it looked a stone-wall penalty, but upon further review, there was doubt raised.
It seemed like there wasn’t enough ‘clear and obvious’ evidence to overturn the decision, but yet no penalty was given.
Fulham took the lead after a couple of sloppy decisions and errors from Villa.
Shortly after the hour mark, Morgan Sanson attempted to switch the play and was closed down, with the ball dropping to Ezri Konsa, who played it back to Tyrone Mings.
Mings failed to connect cleanly with a pass back towards goal and his scuffed attempt was pounced on by Mitrović, with the Serbian striker rounding Martínez and tapping home into the empty net.
The narrative for opposition strikers to score against Villa seemed relevant, as this was Mitrović’s first league goal since September.
The next 15 minutes were also full of frustration for Villa, who for the second game in a row, hadn’t registered a shot on target in the first-half.
In all honesty, Villa looked devoid of any threat in attack and likely to slump to another unsatisfactory result without anyone stepping up to fill Grealish’s boots, but how wrong we were.
Dean Smith has been criticized this season for either making the wrong substitutions or not making them early enough, however, he bucked that trend today.
Immediately after Fulham’s goal, Trézéguet replaced the sub-standard, Anwar El Ghazi, followed shortly by Keinan Davis coming on for Morgan Sanson.
Villa’s first shot on target came as the game entered the last 15 minutes, as Bertrand Traoré cut in and shot from 25 yards, which was saved comfortably by Alphonse Areola.
Three minutes later, Trézéguet would go one better and score Villa’s equalizer.
After good work down the left from Matt Targett, Mings looked to make amends for the first goal and played an excellent cross to Trézéguet just inside the box, who slotted home with his left foot to spark the comeback.
This was his first goal since the winner against Arsenal in July and as the saying goes… you wait ages for a bus, then two come at once.
Trézéguet’s second came from excellent work by Keinan Davis.
Given more time to prove himself today, he looked hungry and certainly gave Smith something to consider ahead of the final stages of the season.
Davis pressured Fulham centre-back, Tosin Adarabioyo, into an error midway in his own half and picked out Trézéguet on the left with a perfect cross for the Egyptian to volley home into the near post for the lead.
Villa made sure of all three points with a third goal scored by Ollie Watkins, still on a high after his debut England goal.
Good work in the middle from another substitute, Jacob Ramsey, along with Mings, saw Trézéguet play the ball out wide to Traoré and the Burkina Faso international beat his man superbly and crossed the ball across goal for Watkins to tap in from around six yards.
The Final Word
For the first 75 minutes, this was another worrying Villa performance.
With a lack of creativity and attacking prowess, one defensive error led to what looked like another disappointing result during this difficult spell.
However, the spark shown from Smith’s three substitutes, in particular, Trézéguet, who had another two shots on top of his brace, turned the game on its head and saw Villa gain three points from a losing position for the first time this season.
On paper, Fulham at home should have been a win, however, this was a largely different team to the one Villa faced in their first away game of the season and one that have been more solid defensively.
Other than Mings’ mistake, Villa looked quite solid defensively and a phenomenal final 15 minutes saw them break down a resolute defense with quality from the bench.
Trézéguet and even Davis have certainly given Smith a lot to think about this week ahead of the Liverpool match; especially if Villa’s captain is unavailable once again.