Aston Villa stayed within touching distance of Derby County after a 3-2 win over bottom-side Burton Albion.
Whenever a club who’s bottom of the table come to Villa Park, there is an expectation that the home side must win. That’s especially the case when fighting for promotion. Saturday afternoon we did just that, but it was not easy.
After a slow start with no chances in the opening ten minutes, Villa took control with their first chance. The again-impressive Jack Grealish’s cross from the right found Scott Hogan whose header was saved. However, Hogan was judged to be offside by the referee’s assistant. Soon after, Hogan had the ball in the back of the net, but it was disallowed after Adomah was flagged offside.
Hogan did open the scoring for Villa on the 33rd minute after a lovely team goal. Bjarnason found Grealish whose neat back-heel to Snodgrass caught Burton off-guard. Snodgrass was able to drive forward into the space and, after a 1-2 with Conor Hourihane, passed a delicious through ball between two Burton defenders. Adomah received the ball and cut it across the face of goal to the open Hogan to tuck home in front of the Holte End, 1-0 good guys.
Villa had chances to double the lead just before the break. Firstly, Hourihane robbed a Burton midfielder and found space just outside the box after playing a 1-2 with Grealish. His shot was heading toward the bottom corner, but the ‘keeper was able to save comfortably. Hogan almost got his second after he made space outside the box and his powerful strike was tipped over the bar.
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Burton did have a couple of dangerous runs into the box and had Lucas Akins booked for a blatant dive but hardly troubled during the first half.
The second half started like the first, slow, and Villa looked in control. The first chance again fell to Villa. Jack Grealish found space and ran towards the box but couldn’t get enough curl on his shot as it bounced past the post.
On the 65th-minute Villa did finally double the lead. Snodgrass’ cross from the right was curled toward the back post where Adomah headed past Stephen Bywater. This should have been the time to settle down and record a comfortable victory. Instead, Bruce made two changes probably with an eye on the important match against Birmingham City next Sunday. Off came Adomah and Snodgrass, on came Josh Onomah and Axel Tuanzebe for his debut.
They were both involved in a nice passing move that ended with Grealish being tripped in the box. The ref, who was already having a poor game, wrongly booked Grealish for diving to the anger of the entire Villa faithful.
Villa should have had the chance to go 3-0 up, but instead found themselves pegged back to 2-1 after a calamitous own goal. Burton earned a corner which was swung into the box. Johnstone first made a great save from a close range shot, only for Ahmed Elmohamady to smash the ball into the top corner when attempting to clear the ball.
Understandably Burton put Villa under pressure trying to find an equalizer, but it was Villa who were creating the chances. Jack Grealish almost scored a screamer, collected the ball from a short corner and curling it toward the top corner. It cannoned of the bar and out for a goal-kick.
Grealish did eventually get his deserved goal on the 88th minute. Tuanzebe overlapped and found himself free on the right. He laid the ball back to Elmohamady whose cross was brilliantly volleyed in by Grealish. Just like when we went 2-0 up, that should have been that.
Instead, it was not. A long ball forward went between Terry and Chester. Liam Boyce found himself one on one with Johnstone and finished well. Luckily for Villa there was only a couple of minutes and we held out for the win.
Can We Get Seven?
It’s the first time Villa have won six games in a row since 1990. If we’re to hit seven, Villa will need to kick it into an extra gear against heated rivals. Although we were comfortable throughout, the game was tougher than needed.
Sloppy defending let Burton through on goal twice, and that needs cutting out before the derby. Next Sunday will be an incredibly tough test against a Blues side who have crawled out of the relegation zone. Aston Villa have the far better squad and home-field advantage, but it remains rarely easy.