Aston Villa will spend the international break in a play-off position after securing a fourth victory in a row against Middlesbrough at Villa Park. Goals from Anwar El-Ghazi, John McGinn and Albert Adomah secured a 3-0 win for Villa.
Dean Smith made one alteration to the side that won at Nottingham Forest on Wednesday, as Glenn Whelan replaced the absent Conor Hourihane.
In all of Villa’s previous four, dominating the opening ten minutes has become a theme of play, in order to set the tone, as they did in this one – threatening Boro’s strong defence from the get-go.
El-Ghazi’s trickery on the left flank was too much for Ryan Shotton, his early cross towards his intended target John McGinn, was headed over the crossbar by the Scotsman who was a marked man in the land of giants, as Aden Flint and Daniel Ayala guarded the Boro box.
After McGinn was again involved in two more opportunities, it was his excellence to open up the opposition that led to the opener. George Friend’s pass was firstly intercepted by Andre Green, before the ball fell to the feet of the midfielder, who passed across the field to El-Ghazi who, bearing down on goal, found the bottom corner with a tidy finish.
McGinn then added a second, by netting his third goal in two games. Jack Grealish’s first attempt to run at the Boro backline resulted in another assist for Villa’s talisman, whose pass was initially left by Tammy Abraham. Falling to McGinn’s feet, the Scot took the ball out of his stride and struck into the far hand corner of Randolph’s goal on the stroke of half time.
Villa started the second period as they finished the first, on the front foot and looking to add to their impressive goal tally for the campaign. Grealish strolled through the Boro midfield with ease and picked out El-Ghazi, who peeled off the left wing. His strike on goal was parried by Randolph in the Middlesbrough goalmouth.
Grealish then went close himself after playing a one-two with midfield partner Glen Whelan from a corner kick. Receiving the ball back from the irishman, Villa’s number ten struck the base of the post from an acute angle.
Top scorer Abraham then came close with two separate chances, but it was substitute Adomah who capped off a brilliant Villa display, as he got one over his former club. Fellow substitute Keinan Davis worked space inside the box before shooting with his weaker right foot but after Randolph could only push away, Adomah followed in with a tap-in, adding a third to seal a comfortable win over 5th placed Middlesbrough.
Aston Villa will now enter the international break in the top six and will look to continue their recent good form when Blackburn Rovers visit Villa Park in two weeks time.