Aston Villa Fall To Luton Town in #EFL Cup Opener

TELFORD, ENGLAND - JULY 16: Roberto Di Matteo the head coach / manager of Aston Villa during the pre-season friendly match between AFC Telford United and Aston Villa at the New Bucks Head Stadium on July 16, 2016 in Telford, England. (Photo by James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images)
TELFORD, ENGLAND - JULY 16: Roberto Di Matteo the head coach / manager of Aston Villa during the pre-season friendly match between AFC Telford United and Aston Villa at the New Bucks Head Stadium on July 16, 2016 in Telford, England. (Photo by James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images) /
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Somewhere Paul Lambert is smiling as Aston Villa fall to League Two side Luton Town 3-1 in the EFL Cup first round. 

Villa started the night at Kenilworth Road on a high–striking woodwork twice in the opening twenty minutes. André Green looked lively early on, bouncing his away around the pitch dinking passes to and from teammates. For the first time in a long time, Aston Villa controlled possession with the combination of Green, Jordan Ayew, Jack Grealish, and Ross McCormack setting up nicely in the final third

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Jordan Ayew opened up this season’s goals account with some lovely work inside the eighteen following confusion from the right-hand corner. His dribble forced a wonderful little tap-in to the far corner. Villa soon found the front foot allowing the club to control possession and tempo on the pitch–Aaron Tshibola and Gary Gardner began to express themselves in central midfield.

Disaster struck in the 35,’ however, as twenty-year old Jake Gray scored for Luton Town following a lovely weighted ball in the right channel.

At halftime, Roberto Di Matteo inexplicably substituted Alan Hutton in at right back, forcing Micah Richards, another right back, to slide in central defense alongside Jores Okore–replacing Nathan Baker. Not only that, RDM also moved Rudy Gestede up top for new signing Ross McCormack; essentially eliminating any type of link-up play, rendering Jack Grealish useless.

As most could predict, the second half was a disaster with Richards botching a clearance less than forty seconds into the half. Luton Town went on to score twice more, courtesy of Cameron McGeehan and a Jores Okore OG (Hutton’s flank, Richards caught napping. Rinse and repeat.)

PLAYER GRADES:

GK- Mark Bunn 5.5

No mistakes from Bunn, made some quality point-blank saves. Still struggles claiming aerial balls, no doubt he’s a number two ‘keeper. (Interestingly enough, the BeIn announcer said Pierluigi Gollini was injured, but I am unable to confirm this elsewhere).

RB (CB)- Micah Richards 3

Atrocious appearance. Was ok in the first half at right back, but was forced to move into central defense following Hutton’s inclusion. Partially at fault for both Luton second half goals.

CB- Jores Okore 4

Solid first half, abysmal second half. Turned in a disastrous own goal, but other than that had a rather quiet and disappointing night.

CB- Nathan Baker 5.5

Presumably subbed off as precaution because he’s an oft-injured, first choice central defender. Villa struggled at the left center back position following Baker’s substitution. Okore and Richards actually flip-flopped sides three minutes into the second half following Richards’ botched attempt to clear the ball.

LB- Jordan Amavi 4.5

Welcome back! Amavi’s first appearance following ACL reconstruction. Had one incisive cross that Jordan Ayew nearly capitalized on, but otherwise was beat on his left flank consistently.

CM- Gary Gardner 4

Could barely tell he was on the pitch. Struggled with phantom pressing and his long balls were not accurate on the night. Two bad matches in a row for Gardner.

CM- Aaron Tshibola 5

Very rangy and mobile, but struggled to oppose his will defensively.

LW- Jordan Ayew 6

Wonderful work on the goal and had himself quite an efficient first half. Watching Ayew turn with the ball is a treat. Disappeared in the second half, still a liability defensively.

CAM- Jack Grealish 4.5

Just simply did not do enough with the ball. Got beat by his man on the first Luton goal.

RW- André Green 5.5

Solid dribbling as his possession alleviated pressure out of the Villa zone. Needs more work and creativity to beat his man more effectively. Bright future for the eighteen year old.

ST- Ross McCormack 5

Substituted at halftime, presumably to rest for league matches.

SUBSTITUTIONS:

RB- Alan Hutton 2.5

Utterly horrible. Right back is the most immediate position in need of strengthening by club owner Dr. Tony Xia.

ST- Rudy Gestede 3

Honestly not sure he made any touches on the ball. This Villa team cannot play to his strengths and his weaknesses really hamper the squad.