Aston Villa player grades as 2017 ends in victory at Boro

DERBY, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 16: James Chester of Aston Villa looks on during the Sky Bet Championship match between Derby County and Aston Villa at iPro Stadium on December 16, 2017 in Derby, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)
DERBY, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 16: James Chester of Aston Villa looks on during the Sky Bet Championship match between Derby County and Aston Villa at iPro Stadium on December 16, 2017 in Derby, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images) /

Glenn Whelan and Keinan Davis sat through illness, Robert Snodgrass scored, and Aston Villa collected three points at Riverside Stadium. Perhaps the most important win of 2017 occurred right at the end.

Aston Villa saved their best for last in 2017. After a winless run of five matches, Villa defeated Middlesbrough away from home via a second-half winner.

With a starting lineup of:Johnstone; Elmohamady, Elphick, Chester, Hutton; Jedinak, Hourihane, Onomah; Snodgrass, Hogan, Adomah, Steve Bruce made several changes following defeat at Brentford. Of note, the bench featured youngsters Callum O’Hare, Jake Doyle-Hayes, and Rushian Hepburn-Murphy, and James Bree.

The match started pretty poor for the claret and blue as Boro started aggressively. Utilizing an uncharacteristic 4-2-4 from Tony Pulis, Boro hit the flanks with pace and tried crossing to Rudy Gestede a lot. Tommy Elphick, James Chester, and Mile Jedinak were fantastic in the air all afternoon. Big ups to Elphick in particular, who isn’t known to be a physical defender.

The moment of brilliance was brewing for awhile as Villa came close through a flurry of corners and an attempt on target from Jack Grealish. Adomah pin-pointed a ball to Snoddy who aided in ending 2017 on a high note.

6.5. Solid recovery match from Sam Johnstone after consecutive sub-par appearances. Didn’t have too much to do, but claimed a few crosses confidently.. GK. Aston Villa. SAM JOHNSTONE

6.5. Proving many Villa faithful wrong with a good half-season’s worth of performances at right back. Easily the club’s best offensive option at the position, forcing three corners in the first-half. Defensive set-up was adequate, too.. RB. Aston Villa. AHMED ELMOHAMADY

7.5. Really solid showing from Tommy Elphick in central defense. Handled Rudy Gestede and Britt Assombalonga about as well as one could ask. Booked right before half-time on 96.6% passing, but ended with <em><strong>eight </strong></em><strong></strong>aerieal duels won and 93.6% passing.. RCB. Aston Villa. TOMMY ELPHICK

7.0. Likewise impressive from the Aston Villa captain on the afternoon who completed over 90%+ passing.. LCB. Aston Villa. JAMES CHESTER

6.0. Something about Alan Hutton playing left back makes him better than on the right. I have no idea how. Perhaps it’s voodoo. Villa’s most involved player in the first-half with 53 touches, which isn’t exactly how it should be drawn up tactically. Fought through a knock.. LB. Aston Villa. ALAN HUTTON

MILE JEDINAK. 7.0. Handled the towering presence of Rudy Gestede on several occasions. Mile Jedinak showcased decent mobility, too, with the blistering Martin Braithwaite countering. Won five aerial challenges.. CDM. Aston Villa

Re-included into the starting eleven after Glenn Whelan took his central midfield spot last match. Hourihane picked-up a yellow card in the first half, but otherwise showed sound positioning. Completed five key passes, per WhoScored; four of which came in the second-half.. CM. Aston Villa. CONOR HOURIHANE. 7.0

JOSH ONOMAH / JACK GREALISH. 6.5. Josh Onomah lasted 36 minutes before leaving through a suspected concussion. Jack Grealish replaced and played well; the assumption being Bruce was saving him for Monday’s clash.. CAM. Aston Villa

Worked hard as always, but Snodgrass had been really poor until he <strong>scored </strong>the winner for Aston Villa. Albert Adomah’s left-footed cross landed straight to Snoddy who blasted it past Boro GK, Darren Randolph. Set pieces continued to be a drain and Conor Hourihane took over.. RM. Aston Villa. ROBERT SNODGRASS. 6.5

7.0. Drifted in and out. King Albert countered well in the first-half, but stayed reasonably quiet for much of the match until the left-footed cross to Snodgrass’ winner. Took a decent left-footed effort in which Randolph saved too. Only completed 63% of his passes on 58 total touches. replaced by Birkir Bjarnason with minutes to spare.. LM. Aston Villa. ALBERT ADOMAH

Aston Villa. SCOTT HOGAN. 5.0. Conflicted about this review as there is a lot to digest. On one hand, Hogan touched the ball just FIVE times in the first-half. On the other, he drew three corners from intelligent runs. There are a lot of opinions on Scott Hogan out there, but I fear Villa are truly wasting their £10 million invested forward. Replaced by Rushian Hepburn-Murphy on the 74th-minute (who impressed).. CF

All data provided by WhoScored match center.

Happy New Year, Villa Fans! The club goes again on Monday in another difficult tilt against promotion contender Bristol City.