Aston Villa rebounded from a weekend defeat to overcome Swansea City 1-0 on Boxing Day. It wasn’t pretty, but it didn’t need to be for all three points.
Ørjan Nyland, Aston Villa’s maligned goalkeeper, was the hero on Boxing Day with a penalty save minutes before the final whistle.
Without that save on Wilfried Bony, and a comfortable first-half under duress, Villa surely would be leaving Wales with a point or less.
It wasn’t a good performance, to say the least, but the cardiac defense held firm to keep a clean sheet.
Dean Smith called upon a mostly-unchanged starting XI – with Anwar El Ghazi replacing Jonathan Kodjia as the lone switch. The match started innocuously enough with a ‘boring’ opening ten minutes or so. Swansea controlled possession, but Villa blocked shots and wouldn’t allow wingers Bersant Celina and Daniel James through.
That’s just about how the first-half went as the claret and blues fell out of it quickly. The last five minutes before break rejuvenated a team that otherwise may have made a change.
The winning goal was created by Yannick Bolasie in the 65th-minute. The on-loan Everton winger dribbled through Zone 14 before weighing a lovely weight ball down the left wing for Alan Hutton. Hutton’s left-footed cross found Conor Hourihane surging through the box. His bullet header caromed off the crossbar for a goal, 1-0 Aston Villa.
Swansea earned a penalty on the 88th after Anwar El Ghazi stupidly jumped on a player inside the box – in an attempt to clear. Bony stepped up, and Nyland saved.