Going into our 2nd premier league fixture, many villa fans were in a rich vein of mood. They seemed to be a buzz about getting a big win against a very good Sheffield Utd side last time out.
The win came from a tenacious fight and grind from the whole squad.
Away at Fulham, it seemed to most fans that we had a great chance of picking up 3 points on the day. I was very optimistic prior to kick-off and believed we would not only win, but also keep a clean sheet. In the first half, I thought Villa were very dominant and definitely the aggressors when it came to winning individual battles. The opening goal from Jack Grealish was a move of class and understanding. The link up play in the lead up to the goal was to draw. Our loss of possession was quickly pounced on by John McGinn, whose eagle eye vision picked out Grealish who slotted home passed the keeper.
The lead up to the second goal had excellent goal involvement between 4 players. From Watkins to Grealish, then threaded through to McGinn who laid it off delicately for Hourihane to slot home. It was wonderful to see such positive link up play from our midfield and strikers.
Fulham’s efforts were very well marshalled by our back 4, who in my opinion deserve massive credit from keeping the likes of Mitrovic at bay. The Konsa and Mings partnership is strengthening game by game. I was very impressed with Konsa’s defensive display, he showed that same nonsense style of defending that started to win him praise at the end of last season.
From set-pieces and in the box defending scenarios we defended really well. What I really enjoyed seeing from the back 4 was some last-ditch blocks and putting their bodies on the line for the team by any means necessary.
Moving forward into the next game against Liverpool, fans were not so optimistic. There was word however that key players from Liverpool were due to be missing because of injury, which seemed to give a handful of fans some optimism.
The biggest news on the day from an Aston Villa perspective was the facts that new loan signing Ross Barkley was starting the game. What a game it was also with his immense inclusion. From the off, Villa looked very sharp and it seemed like we were definitely at the races. On the left side, we were hurting Liverpool massively in the early stages, with Ollie Watkins and Grealish. Ross Barkley started to join in and help link the play, but more importantly made forward runs into key areas of the box to keep the Liverpool defenders guessing.
The initial goal came from a mistake from Liverpool keeper Adrian. To give credit to the Villa players it was sheer tenacious work rate and pressing to force Adrian into making an error. Ollie Watkins managed to pick the ball up from a Grealish pass and finish comfortably. At this point, every Aston Villa fan would likely be expecting one-way traffic from the opposition in Liverpool for a good 10 minutes after goal, it seemed like this was going to be the case.
After some absolutely top draw defending and covering from the back by the squad during this stint, we managed to surge forward on a pace filled counter attack which led the move to interchange from Luiz/McGinn all the way through to Ollie Watkins who drifted over to the left, and then in an almost Thierry Henry type fashion, moved the ball from left to a central area inside the box then rocketed into the top corner! For Villa fans, a dreams start with the new signing Ollie Watkins getting to goals to the good so early on was the ideal scenario. The next goal, however, did fall to none other than the clinical Mo Salah who managed to squeeze into the box and find a pocket of space and then finish with a snapshot that ended up in the top corner, showcasing his quality yet again.
At this point for the neutral, it seemed like the scoreline could be anyone’s game at this point, especially with Liverpool being the comeback kings in the premier league. After a section of play which opened up for villa, Ross Barkley charged forward with the ball from a central area, and lashed a shot that got saved at the near post and went for a corner. From the corner, McGinn came to meet the ball with a half volley, which deflected off Van Dijk and into the net. At 3-1, it still seemed like a narrow scoreline, and that it could end up being a cagey affair. Villa found themselves with a free-kick just above the halfway line later on in the half. 3 stood around, but Ross Barkley took control and delivered the ball with a wonderfully weighted cross into a dangerous area. Trezequet met the ball and hung a cross up which Watkins met with his head, for a perfect hattrick complete. At this point, with the scores being 4-1, Aston Villa fans would have likely seen this a job done and the 3 points, were coming home.
What happened next was another uncanny mistake from the Liverpool backline, which then lead to star man on the day Ollie Watkins cutting out a pass, picked up by Ross Barkley and cleverly linked the play again with Jack Grealish. Barkley saw a space opening up for a shot and let one go. The shot deflected of Alexander-Arnold and lofted into the top corner. Villa in absolute dreamland with still a chunk of the fixture left to play on the clock.
Next, a loss of possession in the middle of the park saw Mo Salah sent on his way one on one with the villa defenders being left in their tracks because of his pace. He yet again showed his clinical instincts and punished Villa with an excellent finish.
Leading on from the tense moments which many villa fans potentially started feeling nervous, was Ollie Watkins grabbing the game again by the scruff of the neck and charging forward, feeding the ball into Grealish who cut dangerously inside leaving defenders off balance. He let of a shot and was fortunate enough to receive a deflection which sent Adrian the wrong way and ball over the line. The last goal to make it a tally of 7 was pure class from Grealish. McGinn picked up the ball and drove an inch-perfect 30-yard pass to Grealish who accelerated onto the ball. He gave the keeper the eyes, and on one dinked a cheeky finish passed Adrian who was rooted to the ground in no man’s land.
So what’s on the horizon for Aston Villa after 3 straight wins in the Premier League? They currently sit 2nd, behind Everton, and although it is still early days, there are clear signs of major improvement this time round. It seems as if Dean Smith and his team have put in place a very good and thought out recruitment strategy. Not only have this, but the existing players from last season that have already played in the League last season stepped up majorly. The likes of Trezeguet, Luiz, and Konsa look like players re-born. I think it’s safe to say that Villa fans will remain grounded in terms of speculation of what could be with the season still only 3 games in, however, there are still sheer flashes of brilliance with what the world has seen today, and Villa have sent out a massive statement of intent of what they are looking to achieve this season. One thing for sure, and it’s that with keeping the key players in the squad it looks like Villa are not just looking to survive this season and would evidently like to push on.
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