Aston Villa player grades vs. Sheffield Wednesday: Hourihane secures win

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 11: Robert Snodgrass of Aston Villa in action during the Sky Bet Championship match between Aston Villa and Birmingham City at Villa Park on February 11, 2018 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 11: Robert Snodgrass of Aston Villa in action during the Sky Bet Championship match between Aston Villa and Birmingham City at Villa Park on February 11, 2018 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images) /

Aston Villa came back from a 2-1 deficit for a dramatic, heartfelt victory against Sheffield Wednesday. Conor Hourihane’s left-footed strike in the 87th-minute secured three points at Hillsborough Stadium.

Well, that sure was fun, eh?

Aston Villa came back from deficit twice to defeat a tough road opponent. Jotting out a 4-1-3-2, Steve Bruce went aggressive with a forward pairing of Scott Hogan and Lewis Grabban, the latter fighting off a tight groin in the days leading up to Saturday.

He looked completely fit, which is great, considering the current injury influx in the squad. 21-year old central midfielder Sean Clare got things started for the Owls in the 14th-minute with a powerful strike, assisted Atdhe Nuhiu.

Villa clawed back though, when John Terry rose to meet a free kick. The open header was partially saved by Wednesday goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith before Lewis Grabban finished on the rebound (or was it second rebound? third?). All that mattered was the scoreline, to be frank, which was 1-1. Villa nearly held on to that score, but Lucas João headed in from a corner immediately before halftime, after the Portuguese forward peeled away from Alan Hutton.

Hutton had a forgetful match from that moment onward. He was withdrawn for Neil Taylor in the 51st-minute with what looked to be a hamstring injury. Aston Villa’s inspiration in the second half came from the unlikeliest of heroes. Glenn Whelan, now 34, and making his first start since mid-January had a quite woeful first-half. He made up for it and then some after the break. Whelan’s quiet looping through ball found Robert Snodgrass in midfield. After a little dribbling the Scotland international delivered a delightful back-post cross which the surging Whelan converted – his first league goal since 2011.

The winner took 20 minutes, of which Wednesday threatened for a large percentage of that time. But Conor Hourihane was johnny-on-the-spot with a left-footed finish just inside the eighteen yard box. Robert Snodgrass added a late consolation penalty after being assaulted in the box. Final score: 4-2 good guys.

7.0. Very busy day for Sam Johnstone. Made a grand total of seven saves, most of which were of the moderately-difficult variety. Not at fault for either goal, but set piece defending was awful from the club as a whole. On the bright side, distribution was not an issue today.. GK. Aston Villa. SAM JOHNSTONE

Sheffield Wednesday attacked Elmohamady’s flank all afternoon. Still, the Egyptian held his ground reasonably well, even if he struggled in the air, winning zero challenges.. RB. Aston Villa. AHMED ELMOHAMADY. 5.5

6.0. Great defending, but some uncharacteristically bad passes from the Wales center back. Chester showcased his moves, though. One of the best defenders with the ball at his feet.. RCB. Aston Villa. JAMES CHESTER

6.0. One perfectly-timed challenge as the last man. The match seemed a bit too fast for John Terry at times.. LCB. Aston Villa. JOHN TERRY

6.0. Was legitimately Aston Villa’s best player in the first-half, until he decided to not contest his marker on a corner kick. Subbed-off through injury after the break as Neil Taylor came on and played pretty well.. LB. Aston Villa. ALAN HUTTON

7.0. Tale of two halves for Glenn Whelan. A surprise starter and I thought there was a decent chance he would have been sacrificed near halftime with Villa chasing the game. Finished with 77% passing and the crucial, equalizing goal.. CDM. Aston Villa. GLENN WHELAN

CM. Aston Villa. CONOR HOURIHANE. 6.5. Ditto for Conor Hourihane. First-half was not good and a decent majority of the second was also not good. Poured it on in the final 20 minutes, however, ending with three key passes.

RM. Aston Villa. ROBERT SNODGRASS. 9.0. The heart and soul – a true master class performance.

Aston Villa. JOSH ONOMAH. 5.0. He was not terrible, no matter what the rest of the Villa faithful tell you. Still, he kind of just existed in left midfield, not doing anything of note at all, good or bad. Sacrificed for Keinan Davis in the 59th-minute.. LM

LEWIS GRABBAN. 7.5. Shuttled in and out of forward/wing roles, but Lewis Grabban was really darn good on Saturday. Surprised how mobile he is and he’s a lot better on the ball than what I imagined.. ST. Aston Villa

5.5. Two shots on target as the notable contributions, but otherwise a quiet afternoon for Scott Hogan.. ST. Aston Villa. SCOTT HOGAN

All data provided by WhoScored match center. Villa get a week to recover before next weekend’s clash with Queen Park Rangers.