What a game that was! It’s not very often that Villa draw a game 5-5. The last time we did so was way back in 1966 when we came back from 5-1 down to draw 5-5 at White Hart Lane. Tony Hateley scored 4 of our goals against Spurs on that day. On this occasion it was Tammy Abraham that did the same.
When the dust has settled, we can reflect on the positives and negatives to be taken from this game. We scored 5 goals but conceded 5 as well. We pulled goals back to equalize on three occasions but couldn’t hold onto a lead against 10 men when we had eventually got one. We are unbeaten over the last 4 games, but our winning run came to an end last night. Our attack was impressive, but our defence was shambolic. Tammy Abraham claimed the match ball but wasn’t on a winning side. The referee correctly sent off Figueiredo, but his allocated stoppage time failed to take full account of the 4 minutes that had elapsed between that incident and the resultant free-kick being taken.
When we found ourselves two goals down after just 6 minutes, I would have gladly taken a point from this game but when we had drawn level within 8 minutes, I had hoped that we would be able to complete the comeback and claim all three points. Doubt crept in when we went behind again on the 22nd minute and then again on the 51st minute but hope was reignited when we equalized again on a second and third occasion on 36 and 71 minutes. When they went down to 10 men on 68 minutes and we then took the lead for the first time in the game with only 15 minutes of normal time remaining it seemed the game would be ours. This game was anything other than predictable though and we have a habit of not capitalizing on teams being a man down as well as not being able to see out games when we sit back so there proved to be a sting in the tail.
It was perhaps inevitable that Joe Lolley and Lewis Grabban would make an impact on the game last night. A brace of goals from a player that is s Villa fan himself and another from a striker who has had more clubs than Jack Nicklaus one of which was us in the second half of last season was a little too much of an impact for my liking.
Forest scored with every on target shot that they had. Our defence is clearly our Achilles heel and Forest ran through it like a knife through butter last night. We should have had a penalty in first half stoppage time and had two late goals ruled out for hand ball and offside It was a game that neither team really deserved to lose but I could have just about have coped with our visitors being the team that did. We could now do with a win at Boro to make up for dropping two points at home last night albeit in a highly entertaining goal fest.
My player ratings from a game that will live long in our memories are:
Orjan Nyland – 3 – Beaten by all 5 of the on-target shots that he faced last night. Grabban hit the ball between the space he had left between himself and the near post for their fifth. He was beaten by shots from Grabban and Cash whose runs into the box were not picked up for their second and third goals. Watched rooted to the ground as Lolley’s well hit shot from distance went past him. No positives to be taken from this at all as any one of us could not have done any worse.
Alan Hutton – 5 – His cross late in first half stoppage time was handled by Cash but this was ignored by the referee. His unnecessarily hot-headed reaction following the sending off led to a booking that will see him miss the Boro game and we can ill afford that.
James Chester - 4 – Was grounded near the half way line when Grabban started his run into the box that nobody else picked up thus leaving him unmarked and in space to turn in their opening goal. Remains alarmingly below his very best and we are so reliant on his leadership. Is he still not fully fit?
Axel Tuanzebe – 5 – Grabban squeezed his last goal past Axel and inside the near post to secure a point for the visitors. The best of our defenders last night.
Neil Taylor – 5 – Hit a couple of decent crosses and played a one two on the edge of the box with Abraham but his 74th minute shot was blocked. Cleverly found El Ghazi for our fifth. His defending was a cause for concern at times though.
Yannick Bolasie – 7 – Made a nice run into the box and was brought down by Robinson for our penalty. Always a threat on his first start for us.
John McGinn – 8 – Hit a 30-yard shot on 14 minutes that Pantilimon was unable to hold, Kodjia was first to the loose ball but his effort was cleared off the line only for the ball to go in off Abraham’s outstretched leg for the first of our equalizers. Hit another good shot from outside of the area following a lovely turn on 39 minutes that Pantilimon was only able to parry away. Hit a sweet cross 2 minutes into first half stoppage time that Abraham headed straight to the relieved Pantilimon. Not fully fit and therefore not able to offer the sort of barrier he normally would in preventing opponents running through us.
Conor Hourihane – 4 – Outpaced by Carvalho who ran on into the box and hit their second past Nyland as both Hutton and Axel tried to get near enough to make a challenge. Hit a dangerous 48th minute cross that was cleared for a corner by Dawson with Kodjia in attendance. Finding the defensive part of his current role difficult to get a grip on.
Jack Grealish – 7 – Good when we were moving forward and always looking to find a pass, but Jack needs to remember to track back and be a nuisance to opponents when we don’t have the ball.
Jonathan Kodjia – 7 – Not quite able to connect with a nice 2nd minute cross from McGinn. Grealish played a nice ball through to him on 14 minutes, he ran into the box and had a shot blocked by a defender. Hit the shot that led to our second.
Tammy Abraham – 10 – MOTM – Scored four and could have had another. Headed in a sweet Bolasie cross at the far post for our first on 11 minutes. Was in the right place at the right time to get in the way of Grabban’s attempted clearance 3 minutes later. Made it a first half hat-trick when he hit his 36th minute penalty down the middle as Pantilimon dived to his left. Headed home a 71st minute Grealish free kick at the near post for his fourth. Scoring goals for fun which is good because we were conceding them as fast as he could score them last night!
Anwar El Ghazi – 7 – Replaced Kodjia on 66 minutes. Hit what could have been our winner 9 minutes after coming on when Taylor found him on the edge of the box and he hit a splendid shot into the left-hand corner of the net. He was booked on 87 minutes for using his hand to put an Elmo cross into the net to reprise Maradona’s infamous 1986 Hand of God moment.
Glenn Whelan – Came on for McGinn on 79 minutes. Not on long enough to earn a rating.
Ahmed Elmohamady – Replaced Bolasie on 83 minutes. A floated cross from Taylor deflected off a defender’s head to him on 93 minutes but Pantilimon parried it and was relieved when Abraham was flagged offside having forced home the loose ball on the goal line. Not on long enough to gather a rating.
Up the Villa!