Aston Villa dropped another two points after Sam Baldock converted a late penalty to snatch a point for Reading. The hosts were made to rue negative style of football and paid the price for not capitalising on chances in the first half. Villa should have been out of sight before the break.
New signing Anwar El Ghazi was given an hour to impress the home faithful, assisting Ahmed Elmohamady to open the scoring. However, Bruce chose to pull him from play on the hour mark. A strange change to make since the game had opened up.
Jonathan Kodjia – having scored three in his last two appearances – headed the attack with Jack Grealish behind him. A dynamic midfield of John McGinn and Birkir Bjarnason sat in front of James Chester and Mile Jedinak. With Alan Hutton and Axel Tuanzebe occupying the wing-back roles. Notably, Leandro Bacuna started for Reading who was part of a midfield that struggled to cope with the aggressive pressing Villa used to force mistakes from a defence which had shipped six before travelling to Villa Park.
Pressing was the game for Villa and McGinn does it best. The Scot caught Liam Moore sleeping within the first minute, winning the ball and driving towards goal but his tame effort meant Villa failed to force an early advantage.
The hosts seemed to have brought their inspired performance against Brentford into the afternoon’s encounter as Bjarnason combined on the left flank with Dutch winger El Ghazi. The new signing outpaced paced Andy Yiadom to get in behind the Reading back line. With space and time on the wing, the former Ajax and Lille man struck towards Vito Mannone who denied him at his near post to concede a corner. Following a John McGinn delivery, Ahmed Elmohmady picked up the loose pieces on the right side to cross towards James Chester who rose highest in a congested box but his header hit the woodwork.
Whilst Villa looked sharp in attack, shades of a leaky defence remained as Bjarnason opted to pass the ball across the park but with Jon Dadi Bodvarsson reading the play, Birkir’s compatriot ran towards Chester. With Sam Baldock in company, Bjarnason recovered excellently to deny Reading taking the lead. Such an opportunity for the away side gave Paul Clement’s players confidence to stay resolute and compact in defence as they knew mistakes are common, at least if they’ve watched previous games. Yet, the main culprit of recent weeks – Jedinak – didn’t make any such errors. Even if we didn’t manage to keep out a first clean sheet of the season.
In a dull half an hour, Villa failed to penetrate their way to goal with Reading having the better chances before the interval. Elmohamady firstly cleared off the line in as a melee ensued in Villa’s box. Bacuna’s dangerous delivery from a corner meant Reading should’ve gone one up before the break. It was the former Villa man who again troubled our clean sheet as he struck a free kick from thirty yards. Only two be thwarted by Nyland, as he comfortably collected the ball to his left-hand post.
Jack Grealish, who was rather quiet in the first half was substituted due to a dead leg he picked up, no wonder as the referee’s at this level fail to protect players. With Conor Hourihane coming on in his place, the home side used the wings as their main outlet in order to break the deadlock. This tactic came to fruition as El Ghazi picked up a superb assist on his home debut. Cutting in from the left, he swung an accurate delivery to Elmohamady who made up the numbers in the Reading six-yard box.
In typical Villa fashion, we failed to consolidate ourselves in the driving seat as Bruce replaced debutant El Ghazi for Albert Adomah. Whilst Villa failed to press and simply play the football we want to see but haven’t on too many occasions. Instead, it was the twenty-third placed side who were allowed to attack and threat promotion chasing Villa’s goal. Doesn’t sound right does it.
Nyland was to thank as the Norwegian ‘keeper made a terrific double save to preserve a slender advantage. Firstly, Nyland tipped onto the bar as he denied Baldock from all of four yards before reacting quick enough to deny Yakou Meite from a similar distance.
As the clock ticked past quarter to five, ninety minutes had passed at Villa Park. And it was four minutes before Steve Bruce’s men could claim there first clean sheet of the season.
But the man who never seems to put a foot wrong – Chester – committed the foul which led to Baldock slamming a penalty past Nyland. In doing so cancelling out Elmo’s second goal of the season, ending the game 1-1 at Villa Park.