Dave Woodhall enjoys Villa’s win at Burnley.
I’m still not used to seasons that drift aimlessly to a close. Year after year of relegation battles mixed with the occasional promotion scrap mean that having nothing to play for with five matches remaining is a novel experience.
Villa still weren’t mathematically safe as the match at Turf Moor kicked off, and if you want to quibble we still weren’t at the final whistle, but it was going to take something dramatic to pull us towards the danger zone, even before Danny Ings’ early goal. Ings had kept his place in a Villa side that had been changed round a bit from last week’s success, which showed that we can finally use a bit of squad rotation. Calum Chambers was pushed into midfield with Emiliano Buendia starting – meaning that Messrs Chukwuemeka, Iroegbunam and Feeney were sharing a bench with Philippe Coutinho and Ashley Young, which must have been a bit of an experience for the Young Lions.
Ings’ opening goal was simplistic – a through ball from Bendia and a straightforward finish with the ex-Burnley striker getting plenty of credit for declining to celebrate his goal, which is a modern trend I can’t understand but then again I’ve never pretended to be sportsmanlike where the Villa are concerned.
Considering that Burnley were on a good run and were the team who had most to gain from this game they were surprisingly careless, which was shown when Villa were allowed to spray the ball around the pitch unchallenged after half an hour with Buendia’s deflected shot finishing off both the move and the game as a contest.
The Argentinian was on top form throughout, his ability shining through and while the Watkins/Ings dilemma seems to have been solved, we now have the problem of how to work our two South American magicians into the same team, and if that’s not possible whether or not Coutinho should be first choice. Think back over the incompetents, wastes of space, has beens and never wases who have occupied the Villa midfield over the past decade and imagine we’d ever be in the position where Philippe Cutinho might have to be content with a place on the bench.
A diving header from Watkins put Villa three up and the team could then sit back while Steven Gerrard changed a few things round to see out the game. Carney Chukwuemeka replaced Chambers and showed that not only does he possess an enviable blend of strength and ability but he’d also be foolish to chuck away such a promising career in the hope of short-term glory elsewhere. Coutinho came on for Buendia for the last ten minutes, which was adding insult to injury, while Ashley Young also made an appearance.
Some slack stoppage time marking gave Burnley a consolation that was more infuriating than important but it was no more than a minor blemish in a performance of quality, and one that gave plenty of hope for the future. Villa might not technically be safe from relegation just yet but on an afternoon like this the future seems geared more towards the Champions League than the Championship.