Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 – 1 Aston Villa
A start-stop Villa season was interrupted once again by the postponement of the clash against Newcastle. With the Villans not performing well after breaks, an extra week to prepare for Wolves could be seen as a curse, rather than a blessing. It did however, give Dean Smith plenty of time to work on the defensive lapses that have cost his men so dearly in recent weeks. The last Villa league triumph over Wolves was in the Championship, where Lewis Grabban and Birkir Bjarnason found the back of the net.
The surprise inclusion of Jacob Ramsey in the starting XI, was the main talking point from Dean Smith’s selection. The 19-year-old midfielder, from Great Barr, would make his first Premier League start in a midfield three, alongside John McGinn and Douglas Luiz. Bertrand Traore also gained a spot in the XI, with Conor Hourihane dropping to the bench, and Trezeguet not in the 18.
The first 45 minutes was ridden with fouls, and contained no clear cut chances. The Villans started well, controlling the possession. As the half went on, Wolves improved and began to keep the visitors penned in their own half. Yellow cards for John McGinn and Douglas Luiz meant Villa’s midfield were cut through with ease. A header from Ezri Konsa, from a Matty Cash long throw, was Villa’s best attempt, but there wasn’t much to get fans off their seats.
The star of the first half? Mike Dean, who’s incessant whistle blowing got tiring. In the words of Garth Crooks, ‘It’s not about you Mike,’ though as ever Mr Dean didn’t get the memo.
Mike Dean’s travelling circus continued in the second half, as he sent off a player from each side. He clearly doesn’t understand that Christmas cards don’t refer to those given on the pitch. Otherwise, a cagey second half was rounded off by a penalty won by John McGinn, and dispatched nicely by Anwar El Ghazi. Villa did well to stay in the game for periods of the half, with Emi Martinez forced into several saves. The red card for Douglas Luiz tilted the play even more in the favour of the hosts, but a series of late attacks from the Villans created the opportunity to win the penalty and the game. For Dean Smith and the fans, a clean sheet and no defensive calamities are a nice change from the previous two displays.
Wolves Post-Match Reaction Show
Emiliano Martinez – 9 MOTM
From the early stages, where he rushed out to claimed a cross, Emi Martinez was fantastic. The pick of his saves, from a powerfully struck Leander Dendoncker shot, showcased his quick reflexes and good positioning. Without the Argentinian shot-stopper, Villa may have been on the end of another defeat, but every move the number 26 made aided the team’s cause.
Matty Cash – 8
After getting booked in the first half, Matty Cash could have put in a half-baked display, pulled put of challenges and played it safe. The attacking full-back did so such thing. His pacey runs forward opened up the Wolves defence on several occasions, and his defensive play was solid. His work to intercept Wolves balls down the left was brilliant. It is a shame that he has accumulated so many yellow cards, and will miss the Burnley match, but Ahmed Elmohamady or Frédéric Guilbert are reasonable enough replacements for one game.
Ezri Konsa – 8
A very accomplished defensive performance from Ezri Konsa (after an early sliced clearance). Wolves were restricted to shots from range for the majority of the game, this was thanks to the work of Konsa and Mings, dominating in the air. Five aerial duels won prove that Fabio Silva was frustrated time and time again in the box. The one time the young Wolves striker did get a shot away, it pinged off the post, and there was Konsa to block the rebound.
Tyrone Mings – 8
As is to be expected with Tyrone Mings, there was one nervy moment in which the commanding centre-half cheaply gave the ball away. Once that was behind him however, there were no mistakes to be seen. Several long passes from Mings, in the first half, allowed Villa to move up the pitch, and create trouble for Wolves right back Nelson Semedo. The 27-year-old wasn’t afraid to put his body on the line either, making two important blocks.
Matt Targett – 8
One of the highly talked of Wolves threats is Adama Traore down the right. Matt Targett made Adama almost an irrelevance, as the powerful winger struggled to make an impact, or burst past the Villa left-back. Targett was certainly called into action defensively, as he made the most interceptions and tackles of any Villa player.
Douglas Luiz – 6.5
Oh what a shame that Douglas Luiz stupidly led with his elbow, to contest a header that he didn’t really need to contest. Minus the red card, and a handful of sloppy moments in the opening stages, it was an accomplished display. Even with his yellow card, Luiz shielded the defence ably, and burst forward to contributed in attack.
John McGinn – 7
A new contract in the bag, and winning the penalty to win a derby, not a bad few days for John McGinn. Bursting forward from midfield, super John made his presence felt at the top end of the pitch. The downside was the Scotsman’s clumsiness in the tackle, and once he had picked up a card, the ball winning part of his game faded.
Jacob Ramsey – 7.5
A full-Premier League debut for Jacob Ramsey, and a great performance to go with it. The 19-year-old played like a much more experienced player, as he passed tidily, and held onto the ball well when required. Two shots, a key pass and a successful dribble emphasise the fact that Ramsey didn’t just stick to the fringes of the play.
Bertrand Traore – 6
Baertrand Traore looks like he could either deftly dribble past two or three players, or trip over the ball when trying to control it. In this game it was a lot more of the latter, though there were some moments in which the ex-Lyon man clicked. For a period of the second half he linked up nicely with Matty Cash down the right, playing in the flying full-back for a few crosses.
Ollie Watkins – 6.5
This wasn’t a game where either side’s attacking player shone, and Ollie Watkins failed to trouble the Wolves back four a great deal. There were some passages of very good hold up play, and one deflected shot that had Patricio diving to his right. These were very few and far between though. In a game that was as well contested as this, it would have been hard for any striker to dominate.
Jack Grealish © – 6.5
Jack Grealish garnered a lot of attention both on and off the pitch this week. His play in and around the box was sloppy, as he snatched at shots, and was doubled up on and crowded out many times. Wolves generally did a great job of dealing with the Villa skipper, as they combined the usual kicking with tight marking. Thankfully, the lack of attacking impetus from Jack was made up for by other mebers of the team.
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Off The Bench
Anwar El Ghazi (74) – 7
20 minutes on the pitch and only six touches, but only one touch mattered from Anwar El Ghazi. The Dutchman made the most of his opportunity to step up from the spot, and grabbed his first league goal of the season. His last penalty was against Manchester City, while Villa were already six-nil down. A little bit more pressure on this one, it is fair to say.
Marvelous Nakamba (96) – n/a
Marvelous Nakamba came on simply as a time wasting sub in the last seconds. With Luiz out for the Burnley game, it could be expected that the Zimbabwean midfielder will get his chance to start a game.
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Dean Smith – 8
No defensive mistakes. That is what will please Dean Smith the most. Hopefully this is the end of the poor run of defeats, the Villa have had in recent times. The defence and midfield had to be at peak concentration for the full 90 minutes, and they were. A goal for Anwar El Ghazi is also good, as it was clear that the winger has been lacking in confidence, and a confident El Ghazi is a good option to have in attack.
The fantastic news for everyone is that Villa have as many points after 10 games this season, as they did after 20 last season.
Now for the hectic Christmas schedule, with games coming thick and fast.
Though it won’t please the likes of Jurgen Klopp, a quick run of games will hopefully allow Villa to get some momentum going. Burnley and West Brom present two guilt edged opportunities for three points. The Clarets will offer a physical battle, but their lack of quality should have Dean Smith’s men rubbing their hands together.