The Hawthorns became Aston Villa’s playground as the Baggies failed to capitalise on their ‘new manager bounce’. Another three nil away win and a fifth away clean sheet welcomes Villa back to the top ten going into the festive period, with 19 shots and 10 on target – a much better conversion rate than the frustrating encounter against Burnley earlier in the week.
Matty Cash and Douglas Luiz made their returns following suspensions, but Konsa remained out due to illness, and Barkley was still not fit enough to make the 20 for the night. Trezeguet remained out with a hamstring injury.
An early and tempting Traoré cross was greeted by El Ghazi at the far post, slipping the ball neatly past Johnstone. From then onwards, the game was pretty smooth sailing for Villa. Traoré was much more lively and linked up well with the returning Matty Cash. McGinn was also aggressive from the outset, making brilliant challenges for the ball and whipping in some great crosses to switch up play.
Targett also had another good game, getting stuck in to tackles and pushing play up the field. He seems to be maturing quite a lot in his second season with Villa. Douglas Luiz’s return was a notable one as well, with his calm and controlled nature keeping the midfield grounded.
A reckless challenge by Livermore late in the first half was the second major blow to Albion after he dove into a crunching tackle on captain Grealish. Big Sam’s first game back in management was unsurprisingly tainted by VAR, as the video assistant referee greeted the new manager back to the Premier League. Get used to it, pal. Hause’s challenge on Diangana was similar, yet VAR deemed it worthy of just the yellow. Villa may count themselves lucky for that one.
After being quite markedly outplayed in the first half, West Brom failed to come out in the second half with all guns blazing, instead sitting deep and compact. Villa maintained total control and had several shots on goal, though none had the finishing touch to double the score line. McGinn had a diving header glance wide and El Ghazi once again had his shooting boots on. The 0-1 score line by the 80th minute did not do the Villa boys justice.
Watkins was again deprived of a goal at the hands of a marginal VAR offside ruling. The striker definitely needs a goal, as his last two have been cruelly snatched away in the closing stages of matches. The huge grin on his face after he scored, before he saw the offside ruling, showed just how much the goals mean to him and his confidence.
This frustration did not deter Villa. Traore came bursting through the middle of the park and softly passed the ball into the the back of the net, leaving Johnstone sitting on his line, bewildered. This goal is hopefully the first of many in the Premier League for the summer signing from Lyon.
Just a few minutes later, Grealish is brought down on the edge of the box by Ajayi. Martin Atkinson pointed straight to the spot, and VAR didn’t intervene. El Ghazi steps up, beaming with penalty confidence following the Wolves victory, and shoots tidily into the back of the net. This was Villa’s third game officiated by Atkinson this season, all three of which were comfortable wins – Fulham, Liverpool and WBA. Can we have him every week?
At 3-0 the game was won, and comfortably at that. Albion managed one shot in the entire 90 minutes – a pretty poor showing at home and off the back of a great point away at Manchester City. Villa once again showed their ruthless attacking style, with everyone on the field chipping in to keep the ball flowing up the pitch through both the left and right channels. Grealish was his usual talismanic self, completely orchestrating play and commanding both his teammates and the opposition to get near to him.
A quite routine win for Villa sets them up nicely to meet with Crystal Palace on Boxing Day, where we hope Barkley can make a return and Konsa will be healthy, though Hause has been a very sturdy alternative. With two games in hand, everyone involved with the club should feel extremely pleased with the progress so far this season, and our aspirations for what we can achieve going forward should be higher than they have been in many years.
Up The Villa!
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