Villa beat Brentford and Dave Woodhall doesn’t really care how.
One thing you can rely on with the Villa is that we invariably have a bogey side and it’s usually some narky, unlovable upstarts with ideas above their station and with one aim in mind – to survive by all means necessary. Think Wimbledon during their (in)glory days, or Leicester under Martin O’Neill, or that team Steve Bruce used to manage.
Now it’s Brentford. There should be a lot to like about a club who’ve risen from the lower divisions to mix it with the big lads, with a transfer policy that makes up for their lack of support. There may well be something to like about them. But if there is, they keep it well-hidden.
Add all that together, throw in a midweek journey to a far-off foreign land and you can see why this was a particularly tricky place for Villa to visit on the Sunday before Christmas. Douglas Luiz being suspended and Lucas Digne being suspended Youri Tielemans injured didn’t help, although they were compensated for in part by the return of Alex Moreno and Jacob Ramsey. It was a three at the back with wingbacks type of a formation and it was accepted almost without question. Unai knows best.
There wasn’t much happening in the first half until Brentford were sharper at a corner than Villa and consequently went a goal up. There wasn’t much happening in the first part of the second half, either. Then quite a lot happened, and continued to happen until the end of the match. First, Ben Mee went into what could loosely be described as a tackle on Leon Bailey that could have caused him to end another Villa player’s career. He got a yellow card that was upgraded to a red post-VAR and was richly deserved, if only because he’s Ben Mee.
Then six minutes later the thankfully-unhurt Bailey’s cross was met by Moreno running in at the back post unmarked to put his header wide of the keeper. Five minutes to go and a corner was flicked on for an unmarked Ollie Watkins to power home the header that put Villa into the lead. None of that not celebrating against your old club for Watkins as he stood in the goalnet having a word or two with someone in the crowd. That led to the first melee of the game. There was more to come as the pantomine season kicked off a few days early.
Leon Bailey’s (very) misplaced backpass almost went in, a Brentford player ran to get the ball for a corner and brushed past Emiliano Martinez, who let’s say was unbalanced and so went down from what appeared to be minimal contact. He then knocked his assailant down a few minutes later and did his best to get him back up again to keep the game flowing. For some reason this charitable gesture wasn’t appreciated and in the ensuing melee part II Boubacar Kamara got sent off and Unai Emery was booked.
And at the end of the day Villa got another three points without playing particularly well. John McGinn was his usual outstanding self and maybe there was a bit of ill-discipline but so what? We’ve been a soft touch for too long and if shithousing our way to a win keeps us at the top of the table then bring it on again.