After just 3 wins in 10 outings at Villa Park, it’s fair to say that Steven Gerrard needed a victory. The win, our first since March, wasn’t without poignancy either. Dean Smith returned for the first time since his sacking to warm applause, but departed with a managerial relegation etched upon his CV.
It was a game with momentary highlights, but for long phases otherwise felt very much like an end of season fixture. It was be misleading to suggest it was easy on the eye. Villa were lethargic at times, guilty of repeated unforced errors and were once again rather wasteful in front of goal.
However, we kept going and were rewarded with a goal in either half courtesy of Watkins and Ings. It could have been more, but for a fine save onto the crossbar to deny Bailey and header from Ings striking the upright.
Whilst we must park the quality of some individual performances for now, the result was perhaps the more important, lifting Villa to 40 points. Job done.
VILLA PLAYER RATINGS
Produced a fine stop to keep out a curling effort from Rashica. Fortunate in the second half to see a loose piece of distribution come to nothing after the visitors failed to take advantage.
Industrious and played with the level of intensity that we have now become accustomed to seeing. Seemed to play a little deeper, but never in trouble.
Lively and always willing to make space down the flank on his return from injury. However the forays forward generally came to little. Never looked at risk defensively.
Deservedly back in the side, but perhaps unexpectedly after a solid backline display at Leicester. Very calm and comfortable on the ball, a good display.
Defensively excellent, but let down by some dreadfully wasteful distribution. Mings was in total control on his defensive duties, but opting to endlessly hoof the ball to the opposition whilst under little or no pressure defied belief.
Affected the game in bursts but many phases of the game passed the exciting youngster by. Has looked in need of rest and rotation for a number of weeks now.
The midfields physical anchor and won his contests with ease against a poor Norwich side. Worked hard and a superb crossfield ball a notable highlight. Effective without being eye catching.
A nervy debut for the highly rated youngster. A couple of dangerous miss-placed passes stick in the memory, but was a physical menace to the opposition and willing to put a foot in. One to watch in terms of senior development.
Seemed to be limping following an early fall. Saw a fine effort saved onto the crossbar, before breaking down after failing to muster any pace to track a Norwich attack. Appeared eager to exit proceedings swiftly after that and departed to audible heckling from the terraces. We are yet to see anything like the best from Bailey.
Another quiet afternoon for Coutinho. A few smart passes weren’t read by his team-mates, but this shouldn’t overlook his own miss-placed efforts and fact for long stretches didn’t feature in the game. A puzzle why the Brazilian cannot be paired with Buendia.
A fine finish for his goal, lashing the ball high into the net on the stroke of half-time. Doesn’t seem as willing a runner as before, either uncomfortable with the system or perhaps tiring of chasing down lost hopes. Opted to take on chances himself where other Villa players better placed, which is becoming a recurring theme.
Buendia immediately added energy to Villa’s lethargy up front, going close himself before assisting the second goal. Gerrerd needs to find a way to incorporate the clubs record signing and most capable attacking weapon.
Danny Ings replaced the underwhelming Bailey. Another hard working display. Hit the post with a header and should have taken a Watkins flicked pass first time. Deserved his goal at the death.
There was also a 20 minute appearance from Douglas Luiz, who competently replaced the tiring youngster Iroegbunam.
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