The three moments that defined Aston Villa’s draw with Wolves at Villa Park...
#3: Denied By The Woodwork…Again…And Again
Villa needed a positive start after the disappointing midweek defeat away to Sheffield United and that’s exactly what happened.
With the game having barely started, Ollie Watkins picked the ball up on the half turn and fired a wonderful effort from 25 yards out, only to see it cannon back off the crossbar with Wolves keeper, Rui Patricio, well beaten.
Watkins has now hit the woodwork an incredible seven times this season – but for a few inches here or there, what has already been an excellent debut Premier League campaign could have been truly spectacular.
Not long after, the ‘Watkins Woodwork Curse’ started to spread, with Ezri Konsa seeing his effort crash off the almost exact same spot as Watkins’ earlier effort.
It seemed as though it would be just a matter of time before Villa took the lead, but the visitors managed to see it through to the half time whistle, leaving Villa feeling a sense of a real opportunity missed.
#2: Second Half Role Reversal
The players will have been sat in the changing room at half-time feeling as though they should have been in the lead.
A new look midfield of Douglas Luiz, John McGinn, and Morgan Sanson – making his full debut – had controlled the game in the opening 45.
McGinn looked back to his best, breaking through the lines and causing Wolves problems, whilst Luiz kept the ball ticking over nicely.
Sanson had looked comfortable on the ball, energetic, and like McGinn, was breaking forward at every opportunity to help Watkins out.
That all disappeared in the second half and it’s difficult to put your finger on why that happened.
Wolves were never going to be as bad as they were in the first half, but an improvement in their performance shouldn’t have had quite the dramatic effect on Villa’s own performance as it did.
The midfield control completely shifted, with Wolves now in full control and Villa offered little to nothing until stoppage time, when Konsa failed to make a telling connection; this time firing his volley from 12 yards wide of the goal and into The Holte End.
#1: Martinez Closing In On Record
It’s been said many times already this season, but it’s worth saying again; Emi Martinez is absolutely incredible. It was strange at the time, but with each passing week and performance, Arsenal’s decision to sell Martinez for just £16m and keep Bernd Leno as their first-choice keeper seems even more baffling.
This wasn’t like the performance at Brighton, where he was called into action time and time again.
This was one of those games that truly distinguish between the good goalies and the exceptional ones.
Commentators and pundits will always say how the likes of Peter Schmeichel were so good because they could have nothing to do all game, but then be called upon to make that one crucial stop – this was an example of that type of top level mentality.
For all Wolves’ possession second half, they didn’t do an awful lot with it, however, there’s no denying that two excellent chances fell to them in the second half – luckily for Villa they fell to two of their center-backs.
Wolves’ first effort was a contender for ‘Miss Of The Season’ from Romain Saiss, who managed to somehow put the ball over the bar from a yard out after Conor Coady’s header had come back off the post.
The second inspired Martinez’s moment of brilliance.
Whilst defending a Wolves set piece, Ross Barkley either horribly misplayed the ball or inexplicably played the ball back towards his own goal from the edge of the Villa box – either way, it wasn’t a good moment for the on-loan midfielder – and the ball ended up at the feet of Willian Jose.
His miss-hit shot found its way to Coady, who took it well on the turn.
However, such is the class of Martinez that he was on to it in a heartbeat, making himself a huge target and producing a wonderful save to divert the shot behind for a corner.
This ensured Villa gained a 14th clean sheet of the season, which is now just one away from equaling Villa’s Premier League record of 15, held jointly by Mark Bosnich and Brad Friedel.
With 12 games still to play, it’s almost inconceivable that Martinez won’t set a new record for Villa, proving just once more how great of a signing he has been.
In the end, a draw was a fair result.
Villa will rue the missed chances in the first half, but will also be grateful to have not thrown it away in the second half.
They now go to Newcastle on Friday night and will no doubt be expecting to come away with all three points.