Aston Villa Home Won 2 – 0
We now know that Bednarek’s absence against Burnley was down to footballing reasons rather than injury. It’s hard to imagine circumstances where Vestergaard would be the better option, and in any case, why were we selecting our team to cope with Burnley’s players? Get a grip, Ralph! The manager had problems for Aston Villa’s visit with Boufal joining Redmond on the sidelines while Walker-Peters now has something wrong with him. The solution to this latest set back was to move Ward-Prowse back to defence; he’s played well there, but who do you bring into midfield? Will Smallbone was the answer, and the youngster nearly found himself on the scoresheet with an early shot deflected onto the post after being set up by Djenepo. Ah, Djenepo… what an opportunity for him in the absences of Redmond and Boufal! Not the finished article of course (he’ll go to Liverpool when he is) but he did get his assist in the end by chasing the ball down to the by-line and then pulling it back with what seemed to be the wrong foot for Long to bundle it home at the near post. Reina rather pointedly set the ball down for a free kick after claiming a handball but VAR would have found that while the goal didn’t go in off either of Shane’s size nines, it certainly didn’t hit his hand either. Ings got through some ineffective tackling only to be foiled in his attempt to nutmeg Reina and the keeper also saved from Djenepo leaving fans wondering whether missed opportunities would come back to bite us. Well Villa did find the net in the opening half (clearly offside) but their stats show only one legitimate shot on target, and it’s hard to recall when that was. On the other hand, they do have Grealish, currently the most exciting Englishman in the Premier League, and had they moved the ball to him in one of their second half breaks, things could have become embarrassing. Four minutes of added time had elapsed when the visitors forced a corner taken by their best player, Grealish, and with their second best player, Reina, sent upfield to make a nuisance of himself. Grealish’s delivery gave his keeper every chance but McCarthy punched clear and happily found substitute Adams who displayed calmness, vision and ability with a crossfield pass to Armstrong who struck his forty yard effort nicely and sent it just inside the post and into the unguarded net. The scorer was booked for celebrations borne out of relief at a rare home win, while Grealish also talked his way into the notebook as he vented his personal frustrations. So at least an assist for Adams who had earlier seen a shot blocked at close range – somehow we need to get him that elusive goal.
LSSC Man of the Match: Stuart Armstrong. It was tempting to make a point by selecting Bednarek instead.