Aston Villa Ratings: Middlesbrough 0 – 1 Aston Villa – HIGH: Elphick – LOW: Hogan

Villa Ratings vs Middlesbrough
  • Sam Johnstone
  • Alan Hutton
  • Ahmed Elmohamady
  • Tommy Elphick
  • James Chester
  • Robert Snodgrass
  • Conor Hourihane
  • Mile Jedinak
  • Albert Adomah
  • Josh Onomah
  • Scott Hogan
  • Jack Grealish
  • Rushian Hepburn-Murphy

Villa returned to welcome winning ways at the Riverside to once more kick-start the promotion chase.

Enforced changes to the starting XI though either illness or injury, saw Villa’s line-up and bench looking decidedly fresher after a winless December.

The first half was evenly contested, with the hosts debuting under former Albion manager Tony Pulis, who appears to have his work cut out with a disjointed looking Middlesbrough side.

Villa worked hard and grew into the half, fashioning a chance through Albert Adomah, whose fierce drive was parried away.  Whilst Villa looked comfortable, once again there looked to be little in the way of any particular cutting edge.

Bruce’s hand was forced once again, with Josh Onomah forced off through injury, seeing the benched Jack Grealish enter the fray.

The second half started again with Villa looking broadly untroubled at the back and forays via both flanks with Adomah and Snodgrass suggested that sooner of later they might bear fruit.

Grealish was unlucky to see a low drive saved well by the Boro keeper, but Villa continued to struggle in making any clear cut opportunities, with set pieces notably poor throughout.

Middlesbrough offered little either, never built any real momentum in the game and threatened only when individuals took it upon themselves to take the initiative.

Former Villa flop Adama Traore did an obligatory pacey run, before delivering his now patented lack of end product.

The graduate of Barcelona’s famous La Masia academy looks every bit as unrefined as he did during his underwhelming career at Villa Park.

Instead, the unexpected star performance came from Tommy Elphick.

Only included as a result of sickness to Whelan, meaning Jedinak was required for defensive midfield duties, the former Bournemouth captain produced arguably his best performance in a Villa shirt.  Physically unopposed, Elphick won everything in the air and produced an impressive all round defensive display.

Villa’s goal and ultimately the winner, came just moments after the worryingly anonymous Scott Hogan was withdrawn.

Hourihane, busy all afternoon, released Adomah into space on the left hand side of the box.

The former Boro winger delivered an inch perfect cross, which Snodgrass accepting the offer to plant the ball home with a diving header.

The celebrations from the players [rightly on the end of some telling scrutiny in recent weeks] amongst the 2700 travelling support was good to see.

Villa rise to 7th off the back of this excellent away win – and now have the opportunity to sting Bristol City at Villa Park on New Years day.

The visitors arrive in 3rd place & with good away form, but will be reeling from a 94th minute defeat to Wolves having lead throughout.  Additionally, City will be without first choice goalkeeper Fielding who saw red during the same defeat.