Sherwood opted to start five of his new signings while his counterpart Howe largely kept faith with the men who had secured the club’s promotion to the Premier League, with the pacey King the only one of Howe’s summer signings who was involved from the start.
The hosts, spurred on by the atmosphere, started well but chances were few and far between as the Villa defenders dealt with the pace of King and Wilson.
With the Villans proving wasteful from set pieces, it seemed like the hosts could exploit their home advantage but, after nineteen minutes, Pugh’s header from the centre of the box missed to the left.
Somewhat surprisingly, chances were few and far between in the first half.
When the Villans failed to clear the ball in the thirty-seventh minute, Gosling had the chance to fire his side ahead. However, his effort lacked control and the ball flew over the bar.
Four minutes later, Guzan used his legs to deny Wilson in the bottom left corner and the American was called into action again in stoppage time, stretching into his top right-hand corner to parry Pugh’s volley from the centre of the box.
After the break, Howe’s men struggled to maintain the momentum they had gathered at the end of the first half and things looked more promising for the visitors. Picked out by Agbonlahor, who had exploited a gap on the right, Gueye shot left-footed and low from the centre of the box, forcing a superb save from Boruc mere minutes after the restart.
Sherwood’s first substitution came in the fifty-ninth minute, when Gestede replaced Ayew and it proved to be a wise move, with the towering forward presented with his first chance for his new side nine minutes late. He should perhaps have done better than to drag his volley narrowly wide but his presence allowed the Villans to attack with increased purpose.
Sánchez replaced Veretout after seventy-one minutes.
Gestede made no mistake when he leapt like a gazelle to meet Westwood’s corner and fired a free header into the centre of the goal in the seventy-second minute to open his claret and blue account. A substitute’s goal was something the claret and blue army failed to witness at all in 2014-15 and the new arrival’s goal was met with scenes of unbridled joy, leading to one man taking an embarrassing tumble over the advertising hoarding.
Agbonlahor had the opportunity to add to his side’s lead with a left-footed shot from outside the box but Boruc made the save in the centre of the goal.
Despite Clattenburg’s efforts to unsettle the travelling fans with his seemingly excessive stoppage time, the visitors defended the lead quite comfortably and secured their third successive opening day win on the road.
Speaking after the match, Tim Sherwood said:
“I thought we were slow in the first period but we set out to nullify them and try to quieten this carnival atmosphere. We did that for half an hour and then we didn’t stick to the plan for the last fifteen minutes, and had to rely on Brad Guzan to make a few saves.
Rudy hasn’t trained an awful lot, but we knew he would give us a different dimension. We worked very hard to bring him to this football club so we’re delighted – and that’s a victory for the people behind the scenes at the club.
A lot of our fans have probably come down here for the weekend, so we’ve sent them home with a nice tan.”