Villa lose 2-1 and Dave Woodhall watches in annoyance.
Someone much clever than me said before the match that Diego Carlos and Clement Lenglet are Villa’s tenth-choice central defensive partnership. hat might be one of the reasons why Villa are currently slipping away from the top of the table and Sunday’s match against you-know-who was about as much to look forward to as root canal surgery.
There was a hope that Pau Torres would start the game but he was on the bench again and his assurance was badly missed as the visitors started well. They’d already had a couple of chances before another bit of defensive slackness led to Villa conceding after 16 minutes. Still, there was plenty of time left and they responded well, with a couple of chances being saved before half-time and then after the break the team continued to press forward.
John McGinn had a twenty-yard shot well-saved, Ollie Watkins could have done better with his chance, Jacob Ramsey just couldn’t get on the end of a good opening created by Leon Bailey and Lenglet’s close-range effort brought out yet another to–class save.
Then midway through the second half Douglas Luiz finally managed to get the equaliser and it seemed as though a memorable comeback was on. It could have been even better not long after but Watkins’ block from the keeper’s hurried clearance bounced agonisingly wide, and it’s not hard to reflect that six weeks ago it would have gone the other side of the post. When your luck’s out, everything goes against you.
Villa continued to go forward, although the decision to take Bailey off with twenty minutes to go seemed strange. Maybe he was suffering from an injury or he might have been tiring, but he’d been running the visiting defence ragged all match and to see him depart must have given them a boost. And so it proved. There’s surely no fixture in the history of football where defeat can be snatched from the jaws of victory so often and in so many different ways as in this one. Four minutes remaining and Matty Cash got out-muscled for what proved to be the decisive goal. And that was it – the visitors were their usual gracious selves while Villa’s poor run continues.
And with that one out of the way, let’s try to look on the bright side. Villa played better than they did in the previous two home e3feats and on another day would have got the points. Torres is getting closer to full fitness while Lucas Digne had another run out. Jacob Ramsey had his best game since returning from injury and Leon Bailey gets better all the time. We’re still in the hunt for a place in the top four, and the next six games are all winnable. In fact, it’s the sort of run where a team with genuine Champions Leagie aspirations should be looking to get something like fourteen points.
But most of all, more than anything else that could have been said about this in parts promising but ultimately disappointing of afternoons is that we haven’t got to play Them again this season.