Garde made one change to the team that secured a 1-1 draw with Leicester City last weekend. Captain Richards returned to the side at right-back following an injury, which left Bacuna to move into midfield to replace Veretout, who was named among the substitutes.

It was clear from the start that the Villa defenders would have to be on their toes, as Pulis’ plan seemed to be to get his forwards involved at every opportunity. With the hosts whipping balls in to Rondón, Lescott and Cissokho were called upon to make important clearances in the opening ten minutes.

The first corner of the game came after fifteen minutes, although former Villan Gardner’s delivery came to nothing.

After twenty-one minutes, the Villans had the first chance on goal courtesy of Ayew, who forced a save from the returning Foster with his low strike.

Three minutes later, the Ghanaian was unlucky not to have been awarded a penalty when there was clear contact from Olsson, who slid in from behind.

Ayew grew increasingly influential and a driving run in the twenty-seventh minute was blocked.

Nobody had expected a goal fest, given that the sides had only forty goals between them, but Bunn had little to do in the first half. Sessegnon’s cross into the middle after thirty minutes posed no problems for Bunn, who claimed it contentedly.

The Villans, enjoying almost two thirds of the possession, seemed keen to end the first half on the front foot.

Bacuna, assisted by Gil, missed to the left with a left footed effort from outside the box after thirty-one minutes.

Kozák showed signs of some intelligent play but was caught offside after thirty-six minutes.

Richards was booked for a strong challenge on Yacoub before Kozák’s left footed shot from the centre of the box was blocked.

As the bland first half in which chances proved few and far between drew to a close, the visitors were certainly in the ascendancy.

There were no changes for either side at the break.

The home side enjoyed the brighter start to the second half, with Rondón winning a free kick in a good position.
Gardner’s ball in was met by Dawson, whose header from close range never threatened.

After fifty-two minutes, Sessegnon tried his luck with a shot from outside the box that missed the top right corner.

Rondón then had a chance to open the scoring just before the hour mark but sent the ball sailing into the stands.

Assisted by Ayew, Westwood did well to get a decent right footed shot from twenty-five yards out in towards the centre of goal, although his effort was easily dealt with by Foster.

Gestede then replaced Kozák. The towering forward didn’t waste any time in trying to make his mark, latching on to Westwood’s inviting cross in the penalty area but glancing his header wide.

The Villans had control of the game but, as is so often the case, lacked the cutting edge needed to truly test Foster in the West Bromwich Albion goal.

Fifteen minutes after joining the game, Gestede had to be substituted due to a hamstring injury. Vereout came on in his place.

With eight minutes left on the clock, Westwood shot right footed from twenty-five yards out but Foster tipped the ball round the post.

Brilliant play and a cutback by Gil were wasted after eighty-five minutes, with nobody in the six-yard box to add the all-important final touch.

Desperately seeking the winning goal, the visitors pressed on in the game’s dying stages. Gil won a free kick in the final minute but nothing came of it.

Bacuna then shot high and wide from outside the box and the game ended goalless.

Speaking post-match, Garde said:

“I’m a little bit disappointed because we wanted three points. In another situation we might be happy with a point but we need more points than that. We tried, we did our best, especially in the second half, but they defended well.

If you see the team playing now, we look more like a team now than we used to. Players have the right attitude, but sometimes we miss talent or quality to score goals.

Should Jordan Ayew have been awarded a first-half penalty? Maybe. I talked with the referee and he told me he didn’t see it like that. Even without a penalty we created many chances and with more accuracy could have scored.”


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