Before the game, MOMS had highlighted the trip to Sheffield United as one of the three key games to establish Villa as a legit automatic promotion outfit. It’s one win down and two to go.
It was scrappy and not too pretty, but Villa pulled out one of those wins that suggests a team has the character for success.
They relied on a beauty from Robert Snodgrass in the dying minutes and a series of decent stops by Sam Johnstone throughout the game. Also, special praise must go to Birkir Bjarnason who set the winner up, for playing with the kind of the composure, that finally showed why he’s an international player.
It was a proper team performance that got Villa over the line and they celebrated the win as a team.
If they keep up the same conviction, but up the level of their play, Villa will be very hard to beat over the remainder of the season.
Villa Player Ratings vs Sheffield United
Sam Johnstone – 8 MOTM
Villa’s true man of the match. His saves included a smart save just before the hour mark, as Villa started to allow United to dictate the game and then a very good reflex save with 10 minutes to go. He looked steady all evening. Johnstone is understandably fast earning a rep as the best keeper in the Championship.
Ahmed Elmohamady – 6
Stuck to delivering from deep, when perhaps he should have drove at the Blades more to try to help break-up their well-organised defensive ranks. A bit of a reserved performance. However, if the ref had played five more seconds Elmo might have bagged Villa’s second from the half-way line.
John Terry – 7
After losing his man at a first-half corner, he did well to put off United’s Jack O’Connell who hit the bar from what was initially a free header. Had a few battles, but proved why he was missed when the Blades visited Villa Park in December.
James Chester – 7
Made a vital clearance at the death, amongst many throughout the game to carry Villa over the line for the win.
Alan Hutton – 7
Got into a personal battle with Leon Clarke in the first half, which luckily cooled down in the second half. Seemed to get forward with more purpose than Elmo, typified by when he cut inside and forced a save from a snapshot early in the second-half. He does tend to give the ball away by trying to be clever though, instead of keeping it simple. Villa’s play broke down a couple of times due to this
Birkir Bjarnason – 8
Again, looked completely at home in the DM berth. Playing with plenty of energy, he was good at breaking things up, tidy in possession and able to get up the field to support on occasion, typified by his assist, when laying off Snodgrass for the winner. Surely keeps his place against Burton.
Robert Snodgrass – 7.5
Whipped in a few decent balls, but had a largely frustrating evening for his toil going forward, until he popped up on the last minute to score a beauty for the winner. The goal typified the end product that Villa had got him in for. He hasn’t showed too much so far, but as we said earlier player ratings, it was only a matter of time.
Conor Hourihane – 6
On the fringes of the game for most of the part and no surprise when he went off.
Scott Hogan – 5
Had hardly anything to feed on. He only had nine touches at the 65 minute mark and ended up with 13. Ironically, that was one more than the 12 he had against Barnsley, when he bagged a brace. Stats don’t seem to mean much with Hogan, although this time they did reflect him being starved of any notable service.
Jack Grealish – 7.5
Worked hard to get Villa going forward and never stopped running and trying to get things going. United to their credit did a good job of flooding the box with bodies to cut down Grealish’s options, when Villa attacked. He was unlucky not to score a goal similiar to Robert Snodgrass’s effort earlier in the game, cutting in from the opposite side.
Albert Adomah – 7
Kept battling away when Villa attacked down the left and linked with Grealish. it’s a partnership that will surely get better down that flank. He also made a vital clearing header at the other end too, showing he doesn’t mind mucking in.
Off the Bench
Josh Onomah (75) – 6
Yet again, managed to come on and have more touches than Hogan, but joking aside, gave Villa a bit of freshness when they were starting to lose their way going forward.
Keinan Davis (81) – N/A
Got a break going down the left shortly before Villa’s winner. Certainly helps make the ball stick a bit more in the opposition half.
Mile Jedinak (85) – (N/A)
Didn’t see much of the action, but his inclusion pushed up Bjarnason, that ultimately set up the Villa winner.
Team Performance – 7.5
Toil and scrapped well on the whole, but in the end relied on their keeper and a bit of quality from Snodgrass.