Burnley 3 – 2 Aston Villa
Cast your mind all the way back to December, and you’ll remember 27 shots and no goals, in a frustrating day against Burnley at Villa Park. Aston Villa wasted chances aplenty against Sean Dyche’s men, but afterwards found their goalscoring touch, with goals in all but one of the games since. Turf Moor was somewhat of a battleground last season, as the Villans picked up season changing injuries, to Wesley and Tom Heaton. Villa would be hoping for a similar performance to that day last January, but without the casualties.
Dean Smith made one change to the team that eased its way past a lacklustre Newcastle. John McGinn replaced Marvelous Nakamba, after serving his ban. Nakamba returning to the bench meant there was no place for Frederic Guilbert, who dropped out of the 20-man squad. After firing in a powerful strike against Burnley away last term, Jack Grealish would be wanting to up his goal tally for the season, having last scored at West Ham in November.
Morgan Sanson was not signed in time for the clash with the Clarets, but should be in contention for a place against Southampton.
It could have been three or four-nil at half time, but fans would have to settle for one. After a poor first ten minutes, where the ball was in the air more than it was on the floor, Ollie Watkins popped up to score. A move which involved at least half of the Villa team ended as Matt Targett whipped the ball low into the box. Watkins flicked the ball into the bottom corner, and the Villans were ahead.
An avalanche of chances then ensued. Ollie Watkins saw a one-on-one chance blocked, the follow up was then volleyed onto the bar by Ross Barkley. A pulled back cross from Grealish was drilled towards goal by Traore, forcing a save from Nick Pope, then Tyrone Mings powered a shot on the rebound, also saved.
Some of the football being played by Villa was a joy to watch. Fast breaks, direct passes, defense splitting through balls, flicks and tricks, the Villans did it all. However, it would feel a lot more comfortable if Dean Smith’s men could convert a second.
It was a truly infuriating second-half, as the hosts punished Villa for not taking their chances. Ben Mee scored from a corner, as Ross Barkley, Douglas Luiz and Ezri Konsa watched on.
Villa pulled ahead once again through Jack Grealish after a well-worked one-two with Douglas. Sean Dyche’s men weren’t done though, as they scored a complete fluke, Dwight McNeill’s cross somehow found the bottom corner.
The sucker punch came as McNeill was able to put in a cross in acres of space on the left, Matty Cash was left alone to deal with two Burnley players, while Bertrand Traore was nowhere to be seen. Chris Wood beat Matt Targett in the air, and Burnley went ahead. Villa hadn’t been bad, but they certainly hadn’t been at the races in the second-half.
Villa got well and truly sh*thoused by Burnley. Careless defending and lapses in concentration meant the Clarets were given the opportunity to get back in the game. It feels very unjust after the scintillating football Villa played in the first half, but a top-half team should be able to defend against a team as one-dimensional as Burnley.
Emiliano Martinez – 6.5
Emi Martinez pulled off a sensational save to deny Chris Wood in the second half. Other than this he didn’t have much to do other than see the ball hit the back of the net a few times. It has to be said that if he had been at full stretch, the Argentine shot-stopper could and should have easily dealt with Dwight McNeill’s low cross. He tried several long balls, in an attempt to release Ollie Watkins in behind and get Villa on the attack, but more often than not the ball wouldn’t make it past the towering Burnley centre-halves.
Matty Cash – 6
Matty Cash was left alone to deal with Erik Pieters and Dwight McNeill for the second and third Burnley goals. Some support from Bertrand Traore wouldn’t have gone amiss, but Cash put in plenty of effort to try and stop the Clarets wide players. The 23-year-old provided an outlet down the Villa right, and helped Villa to keep the Burnley backline guessing with some dummy runs.
Ezri Konsa – 5.5
This wasn’t Ezri Konsa’s best game in a Villa shirt. Villa’s defensive set piece routine, the best headers attacking the ball, didn’t work. Konsa stood back and watched Ben Mee thump the ball home. For the fluke goal, Konsa should be the man sweeping up any low crosses at the near post, and he failed to do so, and paid the price.
Tyrone Mings – 5.5
There were some key moments, in which Tyrone Mings was sloppy on the ball, and made poor decisions. While Matt Targett challenged Chris Wood for the header that would provide the winning goal, Mings was stood on his own. Several times when Villa were looking to press the game back onto Burnley, Mings would give the ball away, which led to a complete loss of momentum.
Matt Targett – 6.5
Matt Targett linked up very nicely down the left in the first half, to set up Ollie Watkins. Villa’s best play is often centred around the triangle of Grealish, Barkley and Targett. There wasn’t a lot more he could have done defensively. Tyrone Mings should have been out to challenge Chris Wood, rather than letting Targett go up against him in a clear mismatch.
Douglas Luiz – 5.5
Douglas Luiz’s best moment came as he linked up with Jack Grealish for the second Villa goal. This aside, the Brazilian looked slow and ponderous on the ball, and couldn’t put a foot in, in the second-half. This lack of guts and determination in the second half is what cost Villa at least a point.
John McGinn – 6
John McGinn played some sensational passes on his return to the starting XI. His first time pass to Ollie Watkins in the first half was a masterpiece, and deserved a goal to come from it. The Scotsman put himself about a bit in the centre of the park in the first half, with a tackle and two interceptions to his name. In the second-half it was a different story, as he faded into obscurity, and let the Burnley midfield gain control.
Bertrand Traore – 6
Bertrand Traore showed plenty of good touches and accurate passes in the first half, but his finishing was poor. Two gilt-edged opportunities came for the Burkina Faso international, and he couldn’t find the back of the net. On top of this, in the second half, his tracking back was lazy at best. The times that Cash needed support, he wasn’t there.
Ross Barkley – 7
Ross Barkley was very unlucky to see his first-half shot smack the crossbar. His play was at times, a little careless, but he definitely added extra threat to the Villa attack. Once he went off and Villa went behind, when the Villans tried to attack, it seemed that much more blunt without Barkley.
Jack Grealish © – 8
Jack Grealish got the goal that his play in recent weeks has deserved. His passing was sensational as he threaded delightful through balls and quick one-twos. Super Jack nearly scored a goal of the season candidate, as he dribbled from the half-way line. It was the ever annoying Nick Pope who was in place to stop the wonder goal. After going behind, Jack then became overly selfish, trying to take on players deep inside his half when a more sensible option was on and the clock was ticking. A poor end to what was a very good game for him.
Ollie Watkins – 8
It was a chance for Ollie Watkins that sparked Villa’s fantastic first-half performance. He took his second with a deft finish, and thankfully there was no hint of offside. Drifting this way and that, his movement terrorised the Burnley defence. The only negative that can be taken from his performance is that he probably should have had another goal.
Off the Bench
Trezeguet (82) – n/a
Trezeguet didn’t do anything in his time on the pitch. He had a grand total of two touches.
Anwar El Ghazi (82) – n/a
Bar from one attempted dribble that failed, Anwar couldn’t offer up much more than Trezeguet. The Dutchman didn’t have time to show any of the goal scoring form he was in before Villa’s enforced Covid break.
Keinan Davis (88) – n/a
Powerful Striker Keinan Davis was brought on as a last resort. His presence up front wouldn’t have intimidated the Burnley centre-halves one bit though, as they seem to relish any chance for a physical battle. The times Davis did try to get on the ball, his first touch failed him.
Dean Smith – 6
To get out the bumper book of football cliches, it was a game of two halves. There were virtually no faults in the first-half performance, and some of the football was a delight to watch. Conceding three goals to Burnley in a half takes a special kind of lapse in concentration.
Dean Smith knew exactly what to expect from Burnley, lots of crosses and a physical battle. After a first half of battering the Clarets, it’s almost as if Villa thought the game was won and went into cruise control, like against Newcastle. This Burnley team is a different animal, and won’t give up. The defence looked ill-prepared and not well drilled enough to deal with the balls into the box.
Next up is Southampton. Despite their injuries, and a bad loss to Arsenal, they will press high and try and take the game to Villa. After dropping points against Burnley, a win should no doubt be the aim. Bouncing back from a poor result, would be another showing of how far Villa have come.