Villa draw 0-0 with Sheffield United and Dave Woodhall watches from a distance.
On the day that Premier League football was postponed ten COVID-19 deaths were recorded in the UK. On the day Premier League football returned, that figure was 79. In between, the Prime Minister said that the return of top-flight football in England would help improve the nation’s morale. The Prime Minister, unlike his predecessor but one, has never claimed to support Aston Villa.
If he had, he would know that the past hundred days have improved our morale no end. Supporting the Villa is great; it’s just that sometimes the matches get in the way. But anyway, the time for arguing about whether and when the season should start up again (a debate that still rages) and why it’s happening (the answer to which is c£ear£y obviou$) is over for the forseeable future and the eyes of the world, apparently, were on a soggy Vila Park at six o’clock when the circus rolled back into town.
In hindsight the result was predictable. Both sides were entering unknown territory, neither could afford to lose, and a 0-0 draw was the bet of the season. Ten seconds of taking a knee were followed by ninety minutes when it looked as though both teams were taking a rest. The one controversial moment came after 41 minutes when Orjan Nyland seemed to have carried a free-kick over the line but apparently a one in nine thousand chance meant that all angles were obscured and we survived.
Villa had a few chances, with Conor Hourihane probing forward well and Douglas Luiz having one of his good days. I’ve said since he signed that our Brazilian international will be vastly improved after a full season in the Premier League and with a bit of luck the three-month lay-off will have kidded him that it stared on Wednesday evening. If Anwar el Ghazi and Marvelous Nakamba can be kidded along the same lines there’s no telling what the next nine games might bring.
At the other end of the pitch, Villa’s failings continued. United keeper Dean Henderson being their man of the match was proof of the number of chances we created but yet again the lack of a natural goalscorer cost us. Keinan Davis remains an enigma and Mbwana Samatta came on as the game was already petering out to a predictable conclusion.
So, 0-0 it finished, thanks to new technology helping the Villa for a change. The draw probably suited us more than the visitors – John McGinn got some game time, it was a rare clean sheet, stopped the run of defeats that were on pre-postponement and there’s no getting away from the fact that United are a better team than we are. Maybe we might have sneaked a win with forty-odd thousand supporters behind us, but there’s no getting away from the fact that this looked, sounded and had very appearance of a training session.
It’s going to take a few games to get used to the new normal and Vila really haven’t got all that much time. The one advantage we do have is that we go into Sunday’s game with Chelsea having already played one game so we’ll have a bit more idea of what to expect than they do.
Really, though, my one enduring match of this match is that it proves how the rest of the season will be played out in such different circumstances that whoever loses out, at whatever end of the table, will have justifiable cause for complain. Bit in the words of Bob Dylan (and he probably stole it from someone else) “Money doesn’t talk, it swears”. And until the season finally ends, we’ll have a few more things to swear about.