Leeds stretched their lead over us to 15 points with their late, late winner yesterday. I can’t really see us closing that gap during the second half of the season. That would leave us with just one automatic promotion place to aim for namely the one currently occupied by Norwich who are currently 14 points ahead of us. To claim that place we must rely on Norwich not being this season’s Cardiff and, on our ability, to overtake them along with the likes of WBA and Derby. It might just come down to a winner takes all clash with Norwich at Villa Park on the final day of the season.
We currently stand 11th in the league table and that doesn’t make great reading does it? We are also just 5 points away from a play off place and with half of the season left to be played I still expect us to finish sixth or better.
Neither team really deserved to win this one, but we did lose it and that can be attributed to our porous defence which was a weakness to begin with and is now even more so due to injuries. Leeds won for the first time at Villa Park since 2002 yesterday and they did so having been two goals down after just 17 minutes. The lead was never a comfortable one though was it? There always lingers a doubt that we can claim a clean sheet and the third goal always looked like it might be crucial. So, it proved. Although we started the second half well and had the visitors on the back foot for the first 10 minutes of it, they claimed the third goal of the game and had drawn level 5 minutes later. It was more than cruel for their late winner to be scored in the 5th minute of stoppage time though. Had the referee decided that we would play on until they score when the 90 minutes were up?
Our 7-game unbeaten run came to a sorry end yesterday and our new boss tasted defeat for the first time at Villa Park. We must now bounce back on Boxing Day in our middle of the table clash with Swansea so that we don’t give ourselves and our hopefully reinforced defence too much ground to make up in the New Year. Given we have now gone 3 home games without a win, perhaps it is to our advantage that this one will be away?
My player ratings from a game that did little to lift our festive spirits and instead had us reaching for them are:
Orjan Nyland – 6 – Did well to help a 22nd minute Chester back header over the bar when it might otherwise have produced a fortuitous goal for the visitors. Left too much space between his left-hand post and himself on 37 minutes and was relieved to see the free kick from Hernandez fly just wide. Did well to tip a 63rd minute Klich shot from the right-hand edge of the box over the crossbar. His poor clearance from a 67th minute Chester back pass fell dangerously to an opponent around 30 yards out. Parried a 79th minute Alioski shot away.
Ahmed Elmohamady – 4 – Gift wrapped them their late winner with a tame back header that played an Alioski cross straight to a delighted Roofe inside of the box in the 95th minute who proceeded to hit the ball into the corner of the net. He had earlier made an 8th minute challenge on Harrison that prevented him making contact with a Roofe cross at close range.
James Chester - 6 – The best of our defenders yesterday which is not saying a great deal. Nobody went with Jannson as he headed in his 61st minute equalizer having ran in between James and Hutton to glance the ball in.
James Bree – 5 – Needed to try to make a move towards Clarke as he ran all too easily past Elmo inside the box before hitting their first into the far corner of the net. Playing out of position through necessity. Must be worth a shot starting in his natural position.
Alan Hutton – 5 – He really isn’t a left back, is he?
Glenn Whelan – 6 – Started well enough.
John McGinn – 8 – Had another impressive game and gave everything he had. Why does he get booked so often when opponents who do the same or worse to him escape punishment so often by the way? We need to get up this season to keep him.
Conor Hourihane – 7 – Hit our 17th minute second with a sweetly placed left foot shot from outside of the box after Kodjia had done so well to make room for himself on the edge of the box before playing the ball inside to him.
Yannick Bolasie – 6 – a nice back heel by Whelan led to the ball cannoning off Kodjia and running on to him on the edge of the box but Jansson’s 47th minute challenge averted the danger just as he was about to pull the trigger. Produced one superb piece of Cruyff-like skill out wide on 51 minutes that left 2 defenders bamboozled.
Jonathan Kodjia – 6 – Headed a 13th minute Hourihane corner wide of the far post. Won the ball on the edge of the area and flashed a shot just over on 48 minutes.
Tammy Abraham – 8 – MOTM – Tammy really didn’t deserve to end up on the losing side yesterday. He back heeled the ball to Hourihane on the edge of the box who in turn played it inside of the box for McGinn the loose ball was behind Tammy but he stretched his leg to make good contact with it and hit home his 9th goal in 8 matches on the 5th minute. Worked very hard throughout.
Anwar El Ghazi - 5 – Replaced Kodjia on 62 minutes and made no positive impression on the game.
Birkir Bjarnason - 6 – Came on for Whelan on 73 minutes. A welcome return following his injury lay off. His 85th minute corner almost produced a third, but a fine reflex stop by Peacock-Farrell spared Forshaw conceding an own goal. Will need a couple of outings to build full match fitness.
Scott Hogan – Replaced Bolasie on 83 minutes. Not on long enough to earn any rating.
Up the Villa and Happy Christmas & 2019 to all Villa Talkers!