Villa kicked off the season with a 3-1 win at Hull. Dave Woodhall comments.
If it’s been a strange close season, it was a bloody weird opening match at Hull on Monday night.
The line-up wasn’t all that out of the ordinary, with the usual suspects given another chance in favour of the youngsters who’ve shown so much promise in the pre-season friendlies. Having said that, the opening minutes weren’t entirely unexpected – a set piece wasn’t cleared and gave Hull the opportunity to open the scoring.
Then the strange things started to happen. First of all Tommy Elphick equalised, and Villa began to play football. Not free-flowing Holland ’74 Total Football, greanted, but they were at least passing to each other and doing the basics.
In the second half Villa gradually got well on top and with the arrival of Andre Green for the disappointing (again) Albert Adomah, a burst of pace gave the opportunity for Ahmed Elmohanady to put Villa into the lead. Two goals, two unlikely goalscorers.
But that was nothing compared to the seismic shock that echoed around Humberside three minutes later. Alan Hutton gets the ball a long way out and with more than enough Hull players in front of him to prevent any problems. Or so they thought. McCafu took the ball round all of them, went past a couple once more for luck, then hit the ball into the back of the net.
Hutton’s delighted, the Villa supporters are delighted for him, and the referee must be moonlighting as a traffic warden to suck all the enjoyment out of the occasion with a particularly pathetic booking.
Jack Grealish went off with seven minutes to go, after a performance that was good without being outstanding. Conspiracy theorists were disappointed with his presence in the starting line-up, they’ll be delighted with his withdrawal and daring all sorts of conclusions over the length of time he took to leave the pitch, how long he applauded the away section and the noise of the ovation he was afforded in return. If he’s here this time next week then great; if not, get the best deal we can and spend the money wisely.
Villa saw the match out with the calmness we witnessed for much of last season – John Terry may be gone but his influence remains in this area, if nothing else. It was a thoroughly professional performance, or at least it was for eighty minutes, against one of the poorest teams we’ll play all season. The opening results can be misleading – after all, Villa won away in each of the Going, Going Gone last three seasons in the Premier League. Taking into consideration the recent upheavals, though, it was a result to celebrate.
Of course, it’s typical that after years of a transfer window that lasted almost a month from the start of the season, we should be so hard-pressed for time when it’s reduced to less than a week. Steve Bruce has got his work cut out to plug the gaps that are still obvious in the team – a left-back is still needed, as is a striker and hopefully not a genius of a midfield playmaker.
But in the final analysis, we got three deserved points without too much fuss. A month ago I think I’d have settled for not being in minus figures by now.