Aston Villa 1-2 Brighton and Hove Albion
After an international break in which many of Villa’s key men racked up minutes for their countries, the Villans had another chance to prove they are the real deal. The opposition, Brighton, were playing some good football, with the likes of Lamptey and Trossard in the ranks, but only had one win to their name. If Villa were to prove that they’d stepped up a level, they should be winning games such as this.
An unchanged starting XI wasn’t a surprising decision from Dean Smith (there’s a lack of legit options). Villa’s performance against Arsenal may have been two weeks ago, but it is hard to forget such a faultless display. One change was made on the bench however, as Bertrand Traore returned to fitness, replacing Keinan Davis. Fans would be hoping for a repeat of last season’s late 2-1 win over the Seagulls. Though this time, a win would preferably come in less dramatic fashion.
Frustrating is the word to describe the first half. Villa had some gilt-edged chances to score, most notably through Trezeguet, but just couldn’t find the back of the net. Brighton made the most of Villa pressing high, and played ball after ball in behind, one of which led to the opening goal. Danny Welbeck found himself through on goal from the halfway line, as Mings and Konsa pushed way too high. Tariq Lamptey made a nuisance of himself down the Brighton right, as Matt Targett struggled to deal with the powerful wing-back. Opportunities for Lallana and Maupay showed that Villa were going to have to up their game at both ends of the pitch in the second half.
Dean Smith’s men got off to the best possible start to the second half. Bertrand Traore’s teasing free kick was met by Ezri Konsa, who scored his second goal of the season. After that Villa struggled to maintain superiority, until a well worked Brighton move stretched the Villa defence left and right, before Solly March finished to make it 2-1.
It seemed then as if the Villans were destined to lose. Chances weren’t coming despite the domination of possession. A late corner made its way to Jack Grealish, who slid in Trezeguet. The winger threw himself to the floor in the box after a clumsy challenge from Solly March, and referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot. A review by VAR brought an abrupt end to any Villa celebrations, as the slow motion footage showed that March had made contact with the ball before clipping Trezeguet.
Was it a penalty? All the pundits (minus Steve Sidwell) seemed to think so. Taking your Villa hat off for a second, it is hard to say it is a clear and obvious error from Michael Oliver to give it. Despite this, March does make contact with the ball, so it is understandable as to why it was overturned.
Villa easily had the chances to win the game, but the defence was so unbelievably open as it pushed high. Lessons from this need to be learned, it shouldn’t have taken a last minute penalty to save a point.
25% off Villa Pro Fit Shirts below
Emiliano Martinez – 7.5
There were several moments where Brighton could have scored more goals, but Emi Martinez was equal to a lot of them. The impressive save of a Maupay shot, outside the box, showed how alert the Villa ‘keeper was. Martinez was also sharp in the second half to stop more Brighton attempts, and the Seagulls may have scored more if Martinez wasn’t at peak concentration. However, he was helpless to stop Solly March’s curled strike.
Matty Cash – 6.5
Matty Cash offered a good option on the attack at times, putting in some reasonable crosses. He linked up well with Trezeguet before the Egyptian was moved to the left, and was able to skip away from Solly March a couple of times. Cash had the most touches of any Villa player, showing his impact on the Villa attack.
Ezri Konsa – 6
Ezri Konsa’s most notable contribution to the game was his goal, but at the other end he was often suspect. There were a number of occasions when Konsa was pulled from his position, and Brighton could play the ball behind him. He also was wrong-footed by a ball in behind, allowing Maupay to run through and get a shot off.
Tyrone Mings – 5.5
There’s pushing up high to press, and then there’s pushing up and letting an injury-prone Danny Welbeck jog past you to score. Tyrone Mings’ positioning for the first goal was simply idiotic. When the other centre-back has been dragged out of position, stay put, don’t go out of position yourself. Mings was really struggling when Brighton punted the ball over the top, and there were several moments where it seemed as if they would get in behind again.
Matt Targett – 5
When Jack Grealish was failing to track back, and Lamptey was bombing down the wing, Matt Targett struggled. When Trezeguet was moved to the left and helped out Targett, he still looked all at sea. He passed the ball accurately, but on the front foot he couldn’t link up with Grealish and Trezguet to create anything.
Douglas Luiz – 4.5
The international schedule seems to have really impacted Douglas Luiz. Villa’s defensive midfield rock was not at the races at all. His defensive efforts were lazy and his positioning poor, and the back four looked exposed many times, when Brighton hit on the break. Zero tackles, zero interceptions, Luiz really was a non-entity.
John McGinn – 5
John McGinn’s first half showing was truly awful. Misplaced passes, poor touches and dodgy defensive plays perhaps showed the miles that are in the Scotsman’s legs already this season. His second half endeavors were an improvement, but there was still something missing. The heavy night in Belgrade after Scotland’s Euro qualification must still be having an effect on Super John.
Trezeguet – 6
Trezeguet showed some real energy, and a few good touches going forward. In spite of this, the Egyptian’s shooting was erratic to say the least. He spurned two opportunities to level the scores, and snatched a myriad of shots. The fact that he had seven shots, and not a single one hit the target, says it all. Trezguet’s blunt performance in front of goal was reflected by the rest of the attack.
Ross Barkley – n/a
It was a real shame that Ross Barkley pulled up with a hamstring injury in the second minute. This is Villa’s first major injury of the season, and to a player who has been so dynamic, and who has allowed Jack Grealish to thrive. It will be a real test of the squad’s depth losing a player like Barkley. There was something lacking in Villa’s performance without him on the pitch.
Jack Grealish © – 6.5
As much as Jack Grealish won fouls on the wing and around the box, he didn’t contribute as much as Dean Smith would have wanted. For huge parts of the 90 minutes, Grealish was out of the game, and a sign of this was the Villa skipper dropping deep to collect the ball late on. There were some good moments, but some poor defensive work (lets not talk about that attempted back heel in his own box), and a general lack of effect on the play, made this Jack’s most disappointing performance this season. Perhaps those three games for England have taken their toll.
Ollie Watkins – 7
Ollie Watkins wasn’t getting much joy through the centre, and thus found himself picking up the ball on the wing. He did contribute with the ball out wide, but the lack of bodies in the box was so often a problem for Villa on the attack. There were a couple of moments when the ball was just behind the former Brentford man, and on another day he would have been able to keep it under his spell and get a shot away.
Use Code MOMS10 for 10% off selected gifts below
Off The Bench
Bertrand Traore (4, 73) – 7
Minus one dreadful free kick just before he was substituted, Bertrand Traore’s set piece delivery was very good, as evidenced by his cross for the goal. The Burkinabe winger was energetic up and down the right flank, and could have had a goal or two if his decision making was better. Some jittery first touches highlight that there is still some improvement to be made in his game, but generally he was neat on the ball and passed accurately.
Conor Hourihane (73) – 5.5
Ireland international Conor Hourihane didn’t really add much in his twenty minute cameo. He made five crosses into the box, none of which met their targets. When Villa needed some quality, Hourihane wasn’t the man to deliver it.
Anwar El Ghazi (73) – 6
Anwar El Ghazi certainly got involved in the time he was on the pitch, and looked lively down the right. One accurate cross, and one key pass show the Dutchman made somewhat of an impact off the bench.
Dean Smith – 5.5
There seems to be something wrong with Villa’s performances at home. The defence seemed wide open against Leeds, then again against Southampton, and now for a third game against Brighton. Liverpool were criticised for their extremely high back-line against Villa earlier this season, and now Villa are at times doing exactly what the Reds did. It is very frustrating for fans to see just what this team can do against the likes of Liverpool, Leicester and Arsenal, and then lose games against Southampton and Brighton.
The defence is sorted away from home. Maybe it is time to take some of that pragmatism from away displays, and transfer it to the tactics for home games (after all there’s no fans, so all games are like training matches).
Some will argue that Villa have been robbed of a point by an inconsistent VAR system, but that doesn’t excuse the dreadful midfield play from McGinn and Douglas, and the positioning for the first goal. It’s West Ham at the London Stadium for Villa next Monday, surely that’ll be three points, based on the recent 100% away record?