Aston Villa 2 – 2 West Bromwich Albion
West Bromwich Albion’s 3-0 loss against Leicester somewhat killed the Baggies hopes of survival. This combined with Burnley beating Wolves meant that for both sides, there wasn’t a lot to play for other than derby day bragging rights. After Aston Villa slumped to a passive 2-1 defeat against Manchester City in midweek, Dean Smith’s side had only won one of their last seven games. An upturn in form would be necessary to give the Villans some momentum heading into next season, and a disheartened local rival seemed the perfect opponent to grab three points against.
Fans had been told for a while that big man would be back soon and Wesley took his place on the bench after nearly 16 months out with injury, the addition of the Brazilian will no doubt strengthen Villa in the long run.
In terms of starting XI changes, Dean Smith made three to the team that started against the Citizens. Matty Cash’s red card forced him out, with Ahmed Elmohamady coming in. Anwar El Ghazi and Ross Barkley returned to the team also, with Jacob Ramsey and Marvelous Nakamba dropping out. El Ghazi would be looking to continue his fantastic scoring record against the Baggies.
It was a pretty end-to-end first half. Both sides had good chances, but the visitors probably edged it. Anwar El Ghazi put Villa ahead from the spot, after Semi Ajayi tapped Ross Barkley on the knee. There wasn’t much time for Dean Smith’s side to relax though, as just over ten minutes later, Ezri Konsa gave away one of the softest penalties you will see in the Premier League this season. Matheus Pereira stuck the ball home, and it was apparent that this wouldn’t be a walk in the park for the the home side.
Sloppy touches, passes and poor tackles were prevalent in Villa’s play, with moves breaking down early more often than not. The Baggies easily could have grabbed the lead to make matters worse. Okay Yokuslu headed just wide and Pereira whipped a free kick onto the bar, having Emi Martinez beaten all ends up. The Villans would have to be less pedestrian and a lot tidier with the ball in the second-half to have any chance of winning.
It was an awful start to the second half for Villa. An Ezri Konsa slip let Diagne in, and a deflected shot off Tyrone Mings crept under Martinez. Villa would then attack, but there were few convincing moments. The away side would threaten Martinez’s net again, as a string of corners caused chaos. Ezri Konsa came close to scoring an own goal, his downward header forced a reflex stop from the Villa ‘keeper.
With the time for a reply ebbing away, Villa finally clicked into gear and looked like grabbing an equalizer.
The addition of Keinan Davis added some much needed impetus at the top end of the pitch. It was Davis who would have the pick of the chances. A skillful turn opened up some space, but his shot was tame and straight at Johnstone. After the ball later smacked the upright off his left foot, it seemed as if the 22-year-old couldn’t buy a goal. Yet his perseverance paid off, Ollie Watkins rose high at the far post, some indecision from Kyle Bartley left the ball hanging in the air, and it was the leg of Davis that would stab the ball high into the top corner.
It wasn’t a particularly good performance from Villa, and a soft penalty and an own goal looked to have sunk Dean Smith’s men. However, they stuck at it, and upped the tempo just when they needed to. There are still worrying signs, the midfield gave the ball away consistently, and Konsa and Mings didn’t have good games, but the last minute goal is some momentum to take into the next game against Everton.
Emiliano Martinez – 8
Emi Martinez had to pull off some outstanding saves to keep Villa in the game. His claw at the ball from Konsa’s effort on his own net was pure instinct, and it was miraculous that the ball arced just over the bar. Without Martinez, the Baggies may have been able to put the game out of Villa’s reach. As ever, having a keeper the quality of Martinez is invaluable.
Ahmed Elmohamady – 5
It is fair to say you can tell the difference between Matty Cash and Ahmed Elmohamady. Positionally the Egyptian was all over the place, being pulled out of position, letting runners bomb in behind unchallenged. His crossing wasn’t at his usual standard either, with several over hit balls giving those in the box no chance. A thunderous volley would’ve helped his cause had it found the back of the net, but Johnstone was equal to it. Thankfully, Matty Cash will be back for next time.
Ezri Konsa – 5
This wasn’t a good performance from Ezri Konsa. While the young defender is so often the most composed player on the pitch, several times a poor touch or being dragged out of position hurt those in claret and blue. The slip for the second goal was something that could happen to anyone, and the ball over the top put him in an awkward position. Not the best day at the office, but plenty to learn from for the young defender.
Tyrone Mings © – 5
It was rather unfortunate that Tyrone Mings picked up an own goal, but he did create a problem for himself with his positioning. Had he closed down Diagne more, the whole situation could have been prevented, as a shot would’ve become less possible, and he certainly wouldn’t have had to dive in to block. With this aside he also struggled up against the height that Sam Allardyce’s men brought, several corners created heart in mouth moments for Villa fans.
Matt Targett – 7
At times, 100 per cent of Villa’s attacking output was coming down the left, and from Matt Targett. The positive runs in behind and crossing ability of the full-back were the driving force of the Villa attack. Defensively he had a tough task up against Pereira, but the Brazilian’s movement inside meant that it often wasn’t Targett being tested by his trickery. While there have been criticisms about the team being ‘on the beach’, Matt Targett certainly wasn’t.
Douglas Luiz – 6
Douglas Luiz was guilty of the occasional poor pass, but generally his passing was tidy, as 87.7 per cent pass completion shows. His efforts to control the midfield were also fairly successful, as he stuck a foot in here and there. His problem was giving fouls away, as he almost gave away as many fouls as he made successful challenges. On top of this, bar a couple of positive drives forward, he was quite ponderous and slow to get the ball moving.
John McGinn – 5
A turnover machine in midfield, John McGinn did not have a good game. The Scot had four unsuccessful touches and had a remarkably low pass completion in a game in which Villa dominated the ball. On top of this, the regularity in which he wastes good positions in the final third by taking a shot on from distance is infuriating. The last time a John McGinn long range strike found the back of the net without a deflection was in the Championship.
Bertrand Traore – 6
Bertrand Traore threatened in fits and starts. One moment it looked like he could take on a couple of players and dink in a cross, the next he’d see someone in front of him, get scared and pass it backwards. It’s been a while since the Burkinabe winger put in a quality performance throughout his time on the pitch. Then again, there’s not many players that you can that about recently.
Ross Barkley – 6
For all the criticism he has got in recent weeks, Ross Barkley’s stats in this game don’t lie. Three key passes, 95.1 per cent pass completion, two dribbles. The area that let him down was just how often his touch was poor, five times to be precise. There’s also the fact that Villa did look better once Barkley left the pitch. However, this performance was a bit more like it from the Chelsea-loanee.
Anwar El Ghazi – 6
Villa’s opening goalscorer, Anwar El Ghazi, gave Johnstone no chance with his ninth minute penalty. It’s fair to say the Dutchman likes a goal against the Baggies. He also looked to be direct once or twice, while the rest of the team sluggishly moved the ball. His influence did diminish though as the minutes went by, but often it was the link up of El Ghazi and Targett that got Villa moving in the right direction.
Ollie Watkins – 6
In terms of hold up play and hard work, Ollie Watkins would get an eight or a nine every week. In spite of this, it was his finishing that let him down this time around. Clean through on goal against Sam Johnstone, it was a golden opportunity that presented itself for Villa’s top scorer. His placement straight at the visitor’s keeper meant he squandered a chance that a top striker should be putting away.
Off the Bench
Jacob Ramsey (77) – 6
Jacob Ramsey added some much needed fresh legs to the midfield in the last ten minutes. He was tidy with the ball and didn’t misplace a pass as Villa looked to draw level. There weren’t an outstanding moments from the youngster, but it’s yet more Premier League minutes under his belt.
Keinan Davis (81) – 8 MOTM
If you keep trying hard and get in the right areas in the box, you will succeed. Keinan Davis has a Premier League goal! He was a menace as soon as he stepped on the pitch, getting on the defenders and trying to create space. This nearly paid dividends as he did everything right before a poor strike at Johnstone. When he then hit the post from another shot, it was agonising to watch. For all his hard work coming off the bench for five minutes here and five minutes there, Keinan has deserved a goal. To get it in a game that virtually relegates the Baggies is even better.
Wesley (90) – n/a
While it was a shame there was no Villa Park crowd to welcome him back, it was fantastic to see the Brazilian back playing after a horrific injury and plenty of set-backs. Having the added option up front should give Smith more opportunity to mix things up if matches aren’t going Villa’s way in the coming weeks. Wesley did get a header on target in his short cameo.
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Dean Smith – 6
The changes from Dean Smith probably came ten minutes too late. Once the subs were on, Villa were really on the front foot and were piling pressure on the Albion net. For large periods of the game, the play was pedestrian, sloppy and uninspiring. It was clear some change in the system, or simply some new legs in midfield were needed. The late goal probably meant it was a fair result, though the visitors did have a worrying number of opportunities to score more.
The key thing that this result can give the team is momentum, and confidence to a player like Keinan Davis. Taking the positive of the point gained and not dwelling too much on the negatives should hopefully give the whole team a boost which they can take into the next game. May as well try and put a positive spin on it at least.