Aston Villa got back to winning ways in Wales, defeating Swansea City 1-0 at the Liberty on Boxing Day. Conor Hourihane’s second goal in as many games stole all the points from Graham Potter’s men with thanks to Orjan Nyland’s late penalty save to preserve the victory.
Anwar El Ghazi replaced Johnathan Kodjia in what was the only change since tasting defeat at home to Leeds United at the weekend. Though, perhaps fresh legs were needed as the away side struggled to play the football Dean Smith requires. A Christmas hangover for much of the squad.
Early Swans domination
It took 20 minutes for Villa to put their stamp on proceedings, with Erwin Mulder denying John McGinn from only yards out. Alan Hutton floated in a cross from the left side towards former Swan Tammy Abraham. The striker managed to head across the box towards McGinn, but his volley at goal was foiled by the Dutch stopper.
Despite the high share of possession Swansea managed to control, they had little to show for it. Their star man Oli McBurnie passing up the chance to take the lead. After failing to make contact on a dangerous Bersant Celina cross, the Scottish forward then squandered an opportunity made by Daniel James on the wing. James Chester managed to recover after losing his man, as the ball stuck under McBurnie’s feet eight yards from goal.
With neither side forcing an advantage before the break, Villa had a golden chance to do just that, with McGinn again in the action. Hutton’s cross from the left side again caused problems for the Swansea backline. El Ghazi headed back to McGinn, but it seemed Mike Van der Hoorn had a handful of his shirt, bringing him down. Referee Roger East, however, waved away the appeals.
But it was third time lucky for Hutton. His cross finally made the difference, with Hourihane marching into the box. Yannick Bolasie’s trickery on the left side gave enough time for Hutton to maraud down the flank. With his second touch deliver an inch-perfect delivery towards Hourihane, whose header was enough to crash underneath the crossbar and over the line.
In a stale game with little invention coming from either side, it was again an aerial duel that forced another guilt edge chance, but this time for the hosts. Van Der Hoorn this time climbed highest at the far post, but his goal-bound header was foiled by the alert Abraham.
The Dutch defender came close again moments later. Celina delivered a corner from the left side. Chester couldn’t handle the flight of the ball, allowing his opposing number to hit the post with a header.
In typical Villa fashion, however, El Ghazi provided the chance for Swansea to wipe away a crucial clean sheet. He clumsily barged substitute Nathan Dyer in the back to assist Wilfred Bony with the chance to convert from the penalty spot. Yet, Orjan Nyland became the hero for Villa, reaching towards his far right-hand side to preserve all three points for Dean Smith’s men.