Dean Smith became the first manager since 2011 to claim all three points on his debut in the Villa Park dugout, with Tammy Abraham’s goal defeating Swansea City.
After a minute applause celebrated the lasting legacy of Sir Doug Ellis, Smith and John Terry were introduced to a sell-out, Villa Park.
The home faithful enjoyed an early spell of domination with James Chester, Axel Tuanzebe, Alan Hutton and Neil Taylor all enjoying the ball in front of Orjan Nyland. A midfield duo of Birkir Bjarnason and John McGinn offered space for Jack Grealish to link with Tammy Abraham at the top of the pitch. Whilst Ahmed Elmohamady and Albert Adomah provided width.
Jack – unable to hit the form of the last term – showed what he’s capable of in the opening exchanges. Floating off the left flank, Grealish caused problems for young full-back Connor Roberts, winning the first corner of the half.
On the front foot, McGinn won the ball back in the middle of the park. Before using Abraham who had both Elmohamady and Adomah for company before he moved into the final third. But his pass to Elmo was wasteful, on the right wing.
The Chelsea loanee who has netted on three occasions wasn’t so wasteful minutes later. Grealish’s free kick 15 yards from goal was initially blocked from a tall Swansea wall. Elmohamady collected the pieces on the right flank. Assessing his options, the Egyptian stood up a cross towards the six-yard box. Abraham headed across Kristoffer Nordfeldt’s goal to score the first of Smiths reign.
CALM AND COMPOSED
The hosts looked calm and composed on the ball forcing Graham Potter to alter their shape with only 20 minutes gone. Yet, Villa could’ve doubled their advantage as Grealish produced a quality dead ball delivery from the right wing. His clever driven cross somehow evaded all in a claret and blue shirt. Hutton came the closest at the far post.
Dutchman Leroy Fer fouled both Grealish and McGinn in the space of minutes to receive a yellow card. His second offence allowed McGinn to take a quick free kick and free Adomah on the left flank. Racing down the wing, Albert’s deflected cross looped over Nordfeldt’s crossbar.
A dominant first 45 for the hosts limited the Welsh side to only one notable chance – but what a chance it was. Another quick free kick produced an opportunity from the wing as Roberts pulled back to Jay Fulton inside the box. His strike was beaten away from the alert Nyland whose display was one of his best so far.
Smith’s Villa side started the second half as they did the first, up and at the Swans. Grealish – aware he needs to add goals to his game – could’ve done just that on two occasions. Firstly striking from outside the box. It was his second effort from 8 yards that demonstrated his lack of confidence in front of goal. Clearing it by ten yards Elmo picked him out for the right.
The fitness levels of the hosts almost cost all three points in the second period. Villa knew they had to take their chances. Abraham came closest to doing just that. His technique and ability inside the box were for all to see as he took down Grealish’s cross from the left with his chest. But his strike hit Nordfeldt from yards out.
In a dominant spell for the away side, Nyland was to thank on many occasion. Especially when Fulton came close again to denying Villa’s second clean sheet of the season. His header was well stopped by the Norwegian before Mark van der Hoorn and Bersant Celina where denied in a scramble in the box.
Minutes later, Taylor denied his former club and substitute Daniel James as he latched onto a Tom Carroll cross from the left flank. Villa looked like they could rue their chances as the away side increased the pressure.
Again Abraham had the chance to put the game to bed. Heading off target after Yannick Bolasie’s skill and trickery worked enough space to produce a quality delivery towards the far post.
Villa held on for a further ten nervy minutes to claim their second three points in nine attempts. After trips to Carrow Road and Loftus Road, Villa then entertains Bolton on Friday 2nd November.