Aston Villa returned to winning ways with a 1-0 win over promotion rivals Cardiff City at Villa Park last night that all but confirms Villa’s place in this season’s Play-offs.
Manager Steve Bruce has rightfully been under a lot of pressure from fans recently after his side dropped points to teams like QPR, Hull and Bolton in recent weeks but credit where it is due, he got it spot on against Neil Warnock last night.
Bruce gave starts to Axel Tuanzebe, Lewis Grabban and then Glenn Whelan come in as a late replacement for Birkir Bjarnason who picked up a back injury in the warm-up.
Cardiff was backed by their full allocation to their credit but they never really looked great. Unsure if that is how they have played all season or if they were not at their best. No one can be sure with a Warnock side, can they?
The home side should have got off to a great start when Robert Snodgrass played Grabban in, only for the striker to hit the side netting.
Cardiff then had a chance of their own on the 15th minute when Tuanzebe, on loan from Manchester United, was caught in possession by Nathaniel Mendez-Laing who broke clear but could only watch on as his shot hit the foot of the far post.
Warnock’s men then came close again just before half-time when a cross hit Whelan’s back and headed towards the bottom corner only for Sam Johnstone to pull off a fantastic save.
Cardiff emerged in the second half and looked more dangerous as they began to put pressure on the Villa goal. Kenneth Zohore was denied by an outstretched foot from Johnstone.
The hosts should have taken the lead when Grabban played Conor Hourihane through with a beautifully weighted ball into the box only for the Irish international to push his shot wide.
My man of the match, Johnstone, came to Villa’s rescue once again when he denied Mendez-Laing late on.
The game ultimately belonged to one man though, Jack Grealish. The youngster was head and shoulders the best player on the pitch as Cardiff struggled to cope with him as they kicked him all over the place and then on the 85th minute the ball fell to Grealish who struck the ball on the volley and the ball smashed off the post into the back of the net.
Cardiff drop to third and Villa remain fourth. Next up for Villa is Leeds United on Friday.
Steve Bruce: “We all know that Jack Grealish is a talent. To be without him for six months shows what we have missed. It took him some time to get back to his fitness after his ankle injury against Birmingham City but this was the real Jack Grealish.”
Neil Warnock: “I don’t know why we didn’t win. We had some great chances. I know Grealish scored a world-class goal but I do not how Villa’s goalkeeper, Sam Johnstone, was not the man of the match. He was unbelievable. One save with his foot was made when he was going the wrong way.”