Aston Villa returned to Premier League football 57 days after that 1-1 draw against West Ham last season. Sheffield United were the visitors and just like the same fixture last season, it wasn’t short of controversy.
Dean Smith handed Emi Martinez and Matty Cash their debuts. Tyrone Mings, Ezri Konsa and Matt Targett made up the back four. Douglas Luiz, Conor Hourihane, John McGinn, Jack Grealish and Trezeguet playing in a midfield five, with Ollie Watkins leading the line.
United in controversy
Chris Wilder must have hated coming to Villa Park during his recent visits and I am sure it was no different this time around. Sheffield United found themselves on the back foot after just twelve minutes.
John Egan grappled with Watkins as the former Brentford man tried to latch on to a loose ball over the top. The referee blew up and to everyone’s surprise, was shown a red card as he was adjudged to have stopped a goal-scoring opportunity. On reflection, I can see why the sending off decision was made but I must admit I would have been fuming had it been the other way around.
Despite Villa dominating the game, without being any kind of threat, the best chance of the first half fell to the away side. Targett fouled Chris Basham in the penalty area and referee Graham Scott pointed to the spot. VAR stopped play for what seemed an eternity for in my view was a stonewall penalty.
John Lundstrum stepped up from the penalty spot but was denied by debutant Martinez who became an instant fan favourite on his debut. They say that a good goalkeeper can earn you twelve points a season, Martinez may have already begun to repay his transfer fee by earning Villa two, possibly three here.
Sky Sports mentioned an interesting stat during commentary, Villa had only picked up two wins in ten games last season where an opposition player had been sent off.
As this game progressed, it was easy to see why. Villa was slow-moving the ball forward and looked to be running out of any ideas. Sheffield United sat deep and looked comfortable with everything that Smith’s men threw at them.
The goal come from an unlikely source on 63 minutes. Mings had flicked on Grealish’s corner, with Konsa rising high to send a looping header into the back of the net.
Watkins and Grealish came close late on from long-range efforts but Konsa’s goal proved to be enough to give Villa their first win of the season with a welcome clean-sheet.
Taking the positives
The game was far from a classic but Villa must take the positives from the game. On top of the three points and clean sheet, we have taken points from a team that we managed just one against last season.
The more we play, the more match fit the players will become. You could tell that some of the lads began to tire late on and we still have new faces to come in.
Up next for Smiths men, Bristol City in the League Cup on Thursday.
Bitesize highlights courtesy of the avfc official youtube channel.