Aston Villa ended a winless streak which had extended to five games. Goals from Tammy Abraham and Yannick Bolasie defeated Rotherham at Villa Park. Both new recruits impressed on their home debuts. Especially Abraham who looked sharp with strike partner Jonathan Kodjia at the top of the pitch.
Steve Bruce chose to make two alterations in the defence. He dropped Axel Tuanzebe for Mile Jedinak who started with James Chester. Alan Hutton replaced Neil Taylor at left-back. With Anwar El Ghazi drafted in on the right hand side, Ahmed Elmohamady moved back to a familiar right back role. To the Villa faithful’s appreciation, all three of Conor Hourihane, Jack Grealish and John McGinn sat behind Tammy Abraham, with the later given license to roam off the left flank. Kodjia was also recalled since being left out at Ewood Park to form a strike partnership with loanee Abraham.
Impressed with the impact Kodjia made off the bench at Blackburn, Bruce adapted Grealish’s role to allow him to move freely on the left. It started to pay dividends in the early exchanges when he and super McGinn combined on the flank. Receiving a clever ball from the Scot, Grealish flashed across the Rotherham goalmouth within the first minutes. Kodjia couldn’t convert as Millers keeper Marek Rodak blocked well.
Minutes later, the Ivorian had another opportunity to break the deadlock. He managed to connect with Hourihane’s well delivered set play from the left wing. Rising highest in a crowded box, Kodjia failed to redirect the ball inside Rodak’s far post. With Rotherham only worrying the Villa goal from speculative efforts, manager Paul Warne used a more direct approach to unlock the Villa rearguard.
In doing so, Villa keeper Orjan Nyland came under pressure. Elmohamady had to excuse his unconvincing presence by clearing from the ball from the Norwegian’s grasps. On too many occasions last year the ball wouldn’t stick in the final third. Yet, with new recruit Abraham providing a greater physical element at the top of the pitch. His quality shone, flicking the ball around the corner to El Ghazi who drove down the right-hand side. Accelerating towards the by-line his cross was disappointingly overhit, failing to reach Kodjia at the back stick.
Conducting over sixty per cent of the ball, Villa’s midfield was too good for Rotherham. With McGinn’s intensity and Hourihane’s technique, Grealish found himself further forward up the pitch. Villa now needs to learn to profit more often from this. Rotherham right-back Zak Vyner had a torrid evening. He struggled to cope with Jack and Kodjia on the flank. And with the two combining, Grealish managed to strike across goal and with Abraham’s six foot three frame spread across the face of goal, somehow Villa didn’t break the deadlock.
Home debutant Abraham again came within inches of scoring his first in claret and blue. El Ghazi flashed a delivery towards Rodak’s near post, but Tammy couldn’t creep in front of the Slovakian keeper. But it was third time lucky for the England youth international as he combined brilliantly with former teammate Kodjia. Grealish picked the ball up once more on the left side, he caused chaos with one forward pass as Kodjia made space the edge of the box. Knowing where his strike partner was, Abraham only needed one touch to finish beyond Rotherham’s goalkeeper. It was his first goal for Villa and more importantly first of the night for the home side.
Since opening the scoring, Villa lacked any attacking impetus for a ten-minute spell before the first period drew to a close.
Visitors start brightly in the second half
As the hosts did in the first half, it was the travellers who started the brighter in the second. Two corners in two minutes demonstrated the lacklustre start Villa made after an inspiring team talk from Bruce. We must be more careful as on occasions a side with more quality will punish our mistakes and clear weaknesses in our backline.
With Rotherham wary of the counter-attacking threat of the hosts, and Villa keen to see out a 1-0, the first sight on goal for the home side came on the hour mark. As the man of the match McGinn recycled a corner, his delivery was met with last years fans player of the season James Chester in the box. But the skipper’s header lacked any sort of conviction needed to trouble Rodak in the Rotherham sticks.
Providing another attacking dimension in midfield, Hourihane demonstrated his technical prowess as he drove a clean strike to sting the keeper’s hands, as the Irish international almost caught Rodak off guard at his near post. Whilst Villa struggled to make any clear-cut opportunities, Villa fans know more than most about the repercussions of not killing a game.
Away fans mocked
Will Vaulks – Rotherham’s midfield threat – swung in a fantastic delivery. Curling inside the Villa backline from the right flank and without a touch, Jon Taylor’s diving header sent the two-hundred away followers into raptures. Before being mocked for what they thought was a goal.
The industrious and aggressive McGinn again showed his commitment to the cause. Sprinting towards Richie Towell before disposing him off the ball and driving at Rotherham’s backline whilst evading two poor challenges from the away side. With time to asses his options, the former Hibs man picked out Abraham who peeled off Semi Ajayi’s shoulder. But his strike was blocked.
Still fragile at the back, the home side were looking for another counter-attack. But before they could think about extending their lead they could’ve thrown it away. As Vaulks again clipped a perfect cross into Villa’s box. Richard Wood connected well with the delivery, with only an inch preserving Villa’s slender advantage on the eightieth minute.
Class shone through
The difference in class was for all to see as, through the limited chances, the hosts manage to create, yet they still grabbed another to seal a second home win of the season. As Elmohamady overloaded the right wing, he collected the ball and immediately crossed into an area Rotherham simply couldn’t defend. A perfect delivery was met by substitute Bolasie’s head as he ran across defender Zak Vyner to also claim his first goal for Villa.
Before Villa could claim their much needed first clean sheet of the campaign. Abraham was withdrawn to a standing ovation from the faithful as James Bree replaced the man who could be the difference this season.