Another late, late goal at Villa Park averted a travesty of justice last night. It gave us the very least we had deserved from a game that we had dominated until our visitors belatedly came into it during the last quarter with us by then having apparently punched ourselves out.
This was our best display of the season by some distance, but it had appeared until Kodjia’s second equalizer of the game that we would somehow emerge pointless from it. We have shown a never say die attitude already this season though and we managed to lift ourselves up from the canvas as time was fast running out to land a heavy blow that maintained our unbeaten record.
We have now drawn our last three home games against The Bees and this point may prove vital at the end of the season when the promotion places are decided. Our visitors have not lost at Villa Park since 1946 and they have clearly become a bogey team to us. They have made an impressive start to the season and may well end it in the top six. Whether they do or do not, they will be unlikely to be more relieved than they were last night to have emerged with a point from any of their remaining fixtures.
Our defence does currently remain a cause for concern. Maupay was left in space for their opener and had it not been for Nyland the visitors could have had more than two goals despite Villa having enjoyed the lion’s share of the game. We need to get back to last season when our defence was a strength rather than a weakness. Signing a left back and a central defender is likely to achieve that dare I suggest JT once again for the central defensive role?
We started strongly, pegged them back in their own half for long periods and denied them the opportunity to put their own stamp onto the game. There were encouraging shades of our best home performances of last season about last night’s game.
We now sit in fifth place with 8 points from our first four games. A win on Saturday will give our team which is steadily being reinforced something to build upon.
Maupay’s first goal was against the run of play and he should not have been on the pitch by then having cynically stamped on McGinn to have scored their second which might have won it for them. Had it done so it would have been a case of twilight robbery.
My player ratings from a game that our visitors are likely to have been more relieved to have taken a point from than disappointed to have not taken all three from are:
Orjan Nyland – 7 – A much improved display. This game can give him the confidence he needs. Conceded two goals but he had no chance with the first and did well to turn a 71st minute Yennaris shot around his right-hand post before Watkins beat Tuanzebe on 82 minutes and hit a shot that Orjan parried which then fell to Maupay to force home for their second on the line. Kept them within range with crucial saves on 84 and 89 minutes when blocking a Yennaris header from 6 yards out and then a close range Maupay shot.
Axel Tuanzebe – 6 – Substituted on 70 minutes. Did very well for a central defender who was playing as a full back and put in a couple of decent crosses. Did well to rob the ball away from Maupay on 11 minutes inside of the box. May well grow into this position but more likely to do so more easily and quickly in a central role.
James Chester- 7 – Solid and dependable once again. Headed a McGinn free kick that took a deflection off a defender over.
Mile Jedinak – 5 – A wayward backward header on 49 minutes from a couple of yards inside his own half fell to Maupay who under pressure from Chester as he ran forward was unable to get a shot in before Nyland came out to claim the ball at his feet. Otherwise did well enough in his extended outing as a holding midfield player playing as an emergency central defender. Headed a 30th minute McGinn corner back across the goal but nobody was near the goal line to put it in.
Alan Hutton – 6 – Beaten to the ball on the line for their second. Alan was his usual reliable self.
Ahmed Elmohamady – 6 – Did well enough but he is playing too far forward for me.
Glenn Whelan – 7 – Did well tidying up at the back. Gave a good solid performance last night.
Jack Grealish – 8 – Was upended on a regular basis throughout the game as is too often the case. Nevertheless, Jack still showed his class and would have been able to do so more frequently had he had a modicum of protection from the match officials. Hit a 15th minute shot from the edge of the area that Bentley saved low to his right and had a shot blocked by him 4 minutes later. Jack picked up the ball and ran into the area on 56 minutes, but his cross was blocked by Bentley at the near post.
John McGinn – 8 – Another fine display by our Scottish Iniesta. Played a nice one two with Adomah on the 2nd minute and stretched to hit his shot just over the bar. Combines very well with Jack.
Albert Adomah – 6 – A better performance than of late. Couldn’t quite get a touch at the near post to a nice 19th minute Elmohamady cross.
Jonathan Kodjia – 9 – MOTM – Two vital goals and gave his best display by a country mile since injury interrupted his career. Showed his strength and ability to shield the ball. McGinn played a lovely ball through to him on 36 minutes and he hit a fierce shot which Bentley saved having got himself into a shooting position on the edge of the box. Hit his first on 39 minutes beating Konsa on the edge of the box having been found by Adomah and cutting inside the box from the left before pulling the trigger and hitting the ball in between Bentley and his near post.
Turned a nice 59th minute Adomah cross straight at Bentley. Added a second equalizer in the last minute of stoppage time. Elmo played a ball into the box that took a deflection off a defender’s head before Jonathan powered a header past Bentley and into the net.
Andre Green – 5 – Came on for Tuanzebe in the 70th minute. Not his best 25 minutes in claret & blue but he will make bigger impressions on games this season and needs to continue to get regular game time albeit mostly now it seems from off the bench.
Conor Hourihane - Replaced Whelan on 83 minutes. Not on long enough to gather a rating. I would have him starting games.
Rushian Hepburn-Murphy - Replaced Tuanzebe on 85 minutes. He was not on long enough to earn a rating either.
Up the Villa!