On an emotional night under the floodlights, the hosts got off to the better start.
Ayew was thwarted by a superb save by Ward before Westwood fired over the bar from the subsequent corner.
Tshibola headed in McCormack’s cross after five minutes but was, rightly, ruled offside.
Tshibola remained active and his header from a McCormack free-kick five minutes later flew over the bar.
Off the pitch, the vocal home fans stood to applaud popular former Villa striker Dalian Atkinson, who died on Monday, in the tenth minute. With umbrellas raised by staff around the pitch and in the directors’ box, it was a lovely tribute to a man who gave us many memorable moments in his time at B6.
Gestede was off target and failed to make the most of Cissokho’s free-kick.
The Terriers’ counter-attacking bore some fruit and van La Perra forced a seventeenth-minute save from Gollini.
Dominating the game against a side offering little in the way of resistance, the Villans took a deserved lead in the twenty-fifth minutes, thanks to summer signing Ross McCormack. A cross from Tshibola found Grealish, who miscued his volley and presented McCormack with a skimmed cross that the former Fulham man duly headed home to open his claret and blue account.
The Terriers could not muster a response and Ayew should have doubled his side’s lead when he headed McCormack’s cross over the bar.
Gestede had chances too and was guilty of a glaring miss after forty minutes.
Just before the break, Ayew was a little unlucky to find his shot cleared off the line by Hudson.
It is fair to say that the Villans should have had more to show for their dominant first half display than a 1-0 lead – and they would come to rue those missed chances.
Scannell replaced Villa fan Joe Lolley at the start of the second half for the Terriers, who began their fightback but failed to threaten in attack.
An out-of-sorts Ayew spurned another opportunity to add to the home team’s advantage when he lashed the ball well over the bar after the Terriers’ poor clearance.
The introduction of Wells in the fifty-sixth minute made all the difference for the visitors and he soon forced Gollini to scramble clear following a blocked effort from Mooy.
An ambitious overhead kick from Kachunga after sixty-three minutes saw an outstretched Gollini parrying, making the crucial contact needed to deny the German.
The visitors upped the ante and enjoyed more possession, spurred on by their travelling supporters.
Gestede could have put the game to bed with nineteen minutes to go but his powerful header was aimed straight at Ward.
With ten minutes left, Wells’ curling free-kick from twenty-five yards out smacked against the left post.
As the clock wound down, the Villans could not maintain their lead, conceding in bizarre fashion at the death. Hefele, a late substitute, charged down Gollini as the Italian tried to make what seemed like a routine clearance and the ricocheting ball wound its way into an empty net. In truth, there was more than one Villa player at fault, although it was a freak goal: Ayew had lost the ball at the other end of the pitch and the experienced Elphick, with time to act, should have put his foot through it rather than leave his goalkeeper vulnerable. I’d advise all those overreacting and calling for Gollini’s head to blame bad luck and move on in this instance.
Despite the Terriers’ late leveller, it was a great game in an atmospheric Villa Park.
Speaking post-match, Di Matteo said:
“I thought we played a magnificent first half with a lot of intensity and energy on the pitch. We hd some good opportunities to score the second goal and kill the game off a little bit. It’s something we need to improve to be able to win games.”