Dean Smith’s fourth match in charge of Aston Villa was a winner. The claret and blues dispatched a Bolton side who put-up a good fight.
Jack Grealish scored his first goal of the season to silence a few detractors after a scoreless 2.5 months to begin the year. It was a friendly reminder that yes, Grealish has fallen off a bit from last season’s productivity, but he’s still been 90% as good, and Aston Villa’s clear best player.
Dean Smith continued his 4-3-3 formation in which Conor Hourihane entered for the injured Birkir Bjarnason. The Republic of Ireland international played an unconventional role for him – deep-lying playmaker. He got the ball moving efficiently, but there were holes in the Villa defense. Elsewhere, Albert Adomah shifted to right-wing while Jonathan Kodjia played as a left inside forward, just behind centre-forward Tammy Abraham.
Bolton made things interesting after Tammy Abraham provided Jack an assist in the 4th-minute. Forward Clayton Donaldson and No. 10 Erhun Oztumer capitalized on midfield lapses to create a pair of golden chances – one of which was cleared by James Chester off the line.
It was 1-0 at the break before Kodjia and Abraham linked-up for a beautiful goal scoring opportunity in the 46th-minute. They whiffed on their chance, but the claret and blues gained a second through a marginally offside James Chester header – assisted by Grealish, earned after John McGinn was fouled.
Substitutes Yannick Bolasie, Scott Hogan, and Glenn Whelan helped kill off the match for a 2-0 victory.