VILLA BEAT QPR
Few will necessarily look back upon this game as a vintage encounter, but even fewer will care how the games are won at the moment.
A hard fought win against QPR keeps “the dream” alive for another week.
Jonathan Kodjia’s fine finish early in the first half proved the difference. Indeed, the Ivory Coast international has been the difference on any number of occasions this season, least of all against QPR.
Villa are on an unprecedented run of late.
Whilst new year results may ultimately leave us agonisingly short come the final day of the season, we are finally beginning to see the type of guile we need as a football club going forward.
The positives were clear from early in the game.
Villa took the match straight to the visitors. It was a pacey, direct start.
Kodjia was unfortunate from the first real attack, seeing a deflected effort rebound off the post.
It was a case of second time lucky though. Fed through after good work from Bacuna, Kodjia powered a finish beyond the QPR keeper.
The true definition of ‘clinical’; a finish oozing with the type of confidence a goalscorer in form might display.
Villa though, rarely seize upon opportunities when an opposition side are visibly wobbling.
It was the same against QPR. Despite lots of the ball and seeing Ian Holloway’s men struggle to contain our movement in the opening exchanges, it was frustrating that Villa were unable to put the game beyond doubt.
Indeed, such was the lacklustre display from the visitors, who appeared completely over-run and disinterested in equal measure, few would have predicted the 2nd half battle.
Was this to be the game where Aston Villa finally managed to put together two halves of football?
As has been all too familiar in recent seasons, and certainly this campaign as well, we were eager to be masters of our own downfall.
Miss-placed passes, unforced errors or a failure to think when in possession cause us no end of problems. It’s a glaring reminder of how we have come un-stuck so many times this term, despite our obvious improvement of late.
I lost count of the times in the 2nd half that Villa gifted the ball back to QPR, handing back the initiative time and time again.
QPR rarely looked like threatening, but when they did, you could often trace it back to a mistake in claret and blue.
This culminated in more than one occasion of sustained pressure building; particularly as Villa legs tired.
Better teams would have punished our midfield’s gaping holes and certainly the indecision at the heart of defence.
Johnstone also, whilst much improved in recent weeks, cut a nervous figure, repeatedly punching straightforward catches.
It was un-nerving all round.
But in adversity, there is still much to be taken.
We are also a far more solid unit these days. The stretch of clean sheets attest to this fact.
Nathan Baker may be wasteful at times, but is an uncomplicated, no-nonsense defender. He’s also unperturbed by any physicality which comes his way. Great attributes at this level.
Also, Mile Jedinak delivered yet another commanding display.
The Australian captain brings countless qualities to our side too readily linked to his physical size. What this masks is an intelligent player, both positionally and mentally. Jedinak’s default ability to handle different threats and also calmly deal with them when under pressure is invaluable.
The win, given results elsewhere, only claws us a single point closer to the final playoff spot.
However, with 6 games remaining, there’s still the [outside] chance that the playoffs could be achieved.
It’s a massive ask, there’s no doubt about that, but its certainly not insurmountable nor impossible. There’s also a welcome added interest in what could easily have become a great number of irrelevant end of season fixtures.
It’s also nice to be the dark horse, whom others may quietly become conscious of lurking over their shoulder.
To make the playoffs, well, that would be remarkable.
Though we’ll need some luck & good fortune to achieve it, we must continue to win games & believe that it’s possible.
Never troubled by QPR all evening. The loan keeper had his most nervy game for a number of weeks, often caused by his own rash decisions. Favouring a punch over catches is an obvious cause for concern, but it’s a 7th clean sheet in 8 for the Man Utd player.
Hutton’s stock continues a remarkable rise after another committed display. No challenge was shirked and once again, little was left on the pitch.
Chester continues to look one of our best buys in recent seasons with another solid outing. Whilst he became more exposed as the midfield went awol in the 2nd half, little got past him. An excellent reader of the game as well.
Uncompromising, physical and no-nonsense. It wasn’t always pretty but it was damn effective during scrambles to clear whilst under QPR pressure from corners. Almost guilty of a major error, allowing the ball to run across him, but recovered.
After the furore in recent weeks following the Coleman tackle, Taylor continues to be a reliable face at left back. Aside from a short backpass in the first half, Taylor offered a straightforward and willing option wide. Linked play well and never gives up either.
Came in and out of game at times, but when involved carries a natural ability, particularly from set plays. Lansbury also has great vision, and whilst we didn’t necessarily see the best of it against QPR, offers something different in the XI, and always gives the opposition something to think about.
Battling, persistent and impenetrable. Another physically imposing, yet intelligent display.
Hard working and assisted Kodjia goal. Bacuna remains a frustation, often doing all of the hard work, before a poor choice undoes it. Ran tirelessly and has improved for having better players around him of late. A strong showing at his 6 game ban.
Adomah (6) (Off 77 mins)
A hard running and constant out ball. Whilst his assists this season tell there own story, he can also frustrate by running into dead ends. Hard to fault his effort again though.
Hogan (-) (On 77 mins)
Struggled to get into the game once he’d come on. Must rue his luck with Hutton managing to slide a great opportunity behind him in the closing stages.
Kodjia (9) (MOTM) (Off 90 mins)
A clinical finish in the opening minutes of the game, shouldn’t overlook what was a performance of pace, running and threat. Kodjia delivered the goods again against QPR and will be central to any successful promotion push. Superb.
Elphick (-) (On 90 mins)
Amavi (6) (Off 85 mins)
Though the Frenchman looks far more comfortable in a midfield role, he does look far from assured when in a “winger” position. A number of times Amavi found himself in good positions only to squander possession. Most notably should have squared in the latter stages of the first half with any number of options in a Villa shirt in the box. Inexplicably fired the ball over from an acute angle.
Green (-) (On 85 mins)
A brief cameo for the promising winger. Was unlucky to see a shot deflected wide, but should have passed in a move minutes earlier, opting to go alone despite Lansbury being in acres of space. Still, evidence of his directness and intent if nothing else.