Conor Hourihane’s late pearler kept Steve Bruce in a job for another week. His immense free-kick cancelled out Blackburn’s Bradley Dack’s third goal of the season. The result keeps Villa within four points of the top two, with home ties against Rotherham and Sheffield Wednesday in the coming week.
Orjan Nyland retained his place having struggled in our last outing at Bramall Lane. There was a more familiar back line of Alan Hutton, Axel Taunzebe, James Chester and Neil Taylor sitting behind Mile Jedinak. John McGinn and Jack Grealish supported debutant Tammy Abraham. Whilst Ahmed Elmohamady kept his place on the right with Albert Adomah drafted back into the side since his proposed deadline day move up North collapsed.
A more balanced Villa side entered Ewood Park having shipped eight in their last three. With no win during this time, there was no lack of confidence. Starting on the front foot, Elmohamady attempted to make a quick relationship with Abraham. As the Egyptian hung up two accurate crosses to the forward before testing Adomah’s aerial prowess but neither forward made an impression in the Rovers box. However, Villa’s defensive woes where made apparent. Former Coventry City star Adam Armstrong got beyond Hutton on the left flank. He then swept in a testing cross but was well dealt with by Tuanzebe at the near post.
The Manchester United loanee was again in the thick of the action as he almost turned the ball into his own net. It was Nyland who saved his blushes by reacting quickly enough to divert the danger that Charlie Mulgrew possesses from dead balls. From here, the hosts dominated the ball with a share of sixty per cent in the Villa half. Their domination almost translated into a goal. Mulgrew’s in-swinging delivery again caused chaos. As Adomah needlessly clipped the heels of Elliot Bennett, Bradley Dack converted from inside the Villa box from the former Celtic man’s wide delivery. Fortunately, the referee’s assistant on the left side wrongfully chalked off the host’s opener. To Blackburn’s frustration as Hutton seemed to have played Dack onside.
Poor officiating – a theme of almost any championship fixture. Was certainly visible at Ewood Park. Perhaps justice for the hosts, referee Stephen Martin chose not to award McGinn a penalty. Cutting inside on his weaker right side, Blackburn’s number six chopped McGinn down. To his disgust, no spot-kick was awarded.
It was a rather quiet first half for the prolific Abraham who struggled to make an impact on the proceedings. He had limited support from the wide areas. In fact, his first sight of goal came late in the first half. McGinn again demonstrated his technical ability. The Scot picked up the ball on the edge of the box before hooking a weighted cross into Abraham’s stride. But with the angle against him, Rovers goalkeeper David Raya collected with confidence.
A bright start to the second half
Villa, again on the front foot, started the second period as they did in the first, up and at a well drilled Blackburn side. Grealish, always too good for opposing defenders breezed beyond Smallwood on the fiftieth minute. He then engaged Darragh Lenihan who like his role model Roy Keane, clattered Jack. A good advantage was played by referee Martin, with Abraham picking up the loose pieces but he struck tamely towards goal. Moments later Tammy again squandered another half chance. He ran across the face of Blackburn’s defence to meet Elmohamdy’s cross, but he couldn’t guide towards goal.
Looking for an injection of quality in wide areas, Bruce replaced Adomah for Jonathan Kodjia. He was sent on to partner Abraham with Grealish moving to the left. The partnership between the two former Bristol City forwards almost paid dividends minutes after Kodjia’s introduction. Leaving Lenihan on the floor, Abraham combined well with the Ivorian to work enough space before striking, but without accuracy, he placed wide.
Blackburn open the scoring
Typical of Villa, not taking the few chances carved out earlier in the game was a recipe for later punishment. That came in form of Dack, since returning from a short-term injury lay off. Jedinak and Grealish where both easily beaten on the right flank by centre-half Mulgrew who whipped in a dangerous delivery. He found Danny Graham at the far post. Without hesitation he struck low beyond Nyland whose job was made harder with Dack’s intelligent flick into the corner.
Bruce immediately turned to Everton loanee Yannick Bolasie and Conor Hourihane who had already pulled Villa out the gutter in a Carabao Cup tie at Yeovil. Surprise surprise he was the man to do it again.
Grealish won the free kick after exploiting the inexperience of Harrison Reed twenty yards from goal. In a similar position to the dead ball, Conor managed to bend beyond Jordan Smith against Nottingham Forest last term, his sublime technique meant Villa would leave Lancashire with a point.
With Steve Bruce motion and emotionless on the sidelines, he knew that goal could have easily kept him in a job. What’s more, after coming out fighting in his post-match conference he again highlighted his previous accomplishments and record in getting clubs out of the division. With two home games and nothing else than six points on the cards, maybe that’ll be the tonic to kick-start our season – after all, we remain four points from the automatic places.