An overall strong showing yielded a 3-0 victory for Aston Villa in a preseason tune-up at Bristol City on Saturday afternoon.
First-half goals came via Jaden Philogene-Bidace and Ezri Konsa, and forward Ollie Watkins wrapped up the scoring when he finished off Anwar El Ghazi’s left-sided cross in the 60th minute.
Villa, still with several key players missing, fielded a mixed IX consisting of starters, back-ups, and academy products. A back four of Matty Cash, Konsa, Kourtney Hause, and Ashley Young shielded Jed Steer, who was virtually untested in the contest.
John McGinn and Marvelous Nakamba provided a two-man pivot in central midfield, while Aaron Ramsey played behind Watkins in a number 10 role. El Ghazi and Philogene-Bidace provided the width upfront.
Philogene-Bidace’s sixth-minute goal was a cheeky finish in the box from a Watkins cross on the left. The right winger terrorized the Bristol backline all match, making dangerous runs into the box regularly.
Konsa’s 44th-minute tally doubled Villa’s lead and came as a result of the Bristol keeper’s mishandling of a McGinn free-kick.
With only three subs available–a second Villa team participated in a closed-door match with Crewe–Dean Smith made only two changes when Hayden Lindley and Brad Young replaced McGinn and Watkins, respectively, in the 80th minute.
Miscellaneous match notes:
- Philogene-Bidace was maybe the best player on the pitch. His technical ability is eye-opening and he has the confidence to take defenders on. But what was most noticeable about him today was his tendency to get into the box and provide a goal threat. He also did well pressuring defenders out of possession and could be a legitimate right-sided option for Smith in the opening fixtures
- Aaron Ramsey continued to show he belongs. He’s such a calming presence and is very strong on the ball. Not sure how much we see of him this season as the club is expected to splash in the transfer market
- Young looked lively and had his best performance of the preseason yet. He got forward often, especially in the first half, and provided good distribution into the box
- There’s no quit in Ollie Watkins. No matter the day or the opponent, you know what you’re going to get from him: pace, hold up ability, and clinical finishing
- Nakamba again struggled on the ball. With Morgan Sanson and Douglas Luiz not expected to be ready for the opening match on August 14, it’s clear he’ll get a run in, but he does need to improve on the ball
- Cash, Konsa, and Hause all clinical in defense. The back line looks sharp