Villa Ratings vs Sheffield United
SHEFF UTD 0-1 VILLA
Well, if you needed any further proof that Aston Villa can take you on a rollercoaster of emotions over 90 minutes, then it was once again evidenced at Bramall Lane.
This was a dogged, occasionally vulnerable showing, that demonstrated how far Villa have come since the malaise of December.
What matters most of all is that Villa secured a superb away victory, courtesy of an outrageous Robert Snodgrass strike.
We now also sit third, prowling, menacingly at second spot.
— Villa Underground (@avfc_vilr) January 30, 2018
5 IN A ROW
Indeed, whilst the result in itself is excellent, it shouldn’t go un-noticed that Bruce has steered Villa to a fifth consecutive win.
It’s a genuine feat, given the last time such a run occurred was when Villa competed at the summit of the Premier League under John Gregory in 1998.
It might not necessarily feel like it, but that’s 20 years ago. Gulp.
As remarkable as that fact were the performances of Sam Johnstone and Robert Snodgrass.
Johnstone, the United loanee, continues to impress at Villa Park, growing from a peripheral option plying his trade, to an open secret as arguably one of the rising prospects of English goalkeeping. This performance underlined this potential, a comprehensive display of handling, shot-stopping and positional awareness.
Robert Snodgrass, unbelievably exiled by West Ham on current form, delivered the telling blow at the clock struck 90.
After a superb swivel and pass by Bjarnason in the midfield, Snodgrass questioned the United fullback. With Elmohamedy’s excellent bursting run as the distraction, the Scottish international curled a sublime winner beyond the helpless keeper.
Cue, rapturous scenes amongst the travelling Villa support.
United were worthy, stoic and at times unlucky opponents. They will reflect on Johnstone’s performance, the Wilson overhead kick that whistled past the post and a header which crashed the crossbar in the opening exchanges.
Despite the defeat tonight, they were, in this blogs view at least, much improved overall on the 2-2 draw at Villa Park in December. However, so were Villa.
A rejuvenated and purposeful Bjarnason has completely made the defensive midfield role his own. The Icelandic international impressed again with a notable work rate and contribution. Few amongst Villa’s ranks have seen such a positive transformation in such a short space of time.
Terry and Chester were questioned time and time again and more than played their part in a side that’s conceded just once in 450 minutes of Championship football. Combined, they were excellent.
Grealish, unlucky with a fierce curling effort that fizzed just past the post was calm, composed and direct. Jack is really starting to grow into both his role and potential at Villa Park.
Overall – the win – and it’s manner – emphasises what a fantastic opportunity Villa have.
With Derby only managing a goal-less draw against Millwall, the gap to second is narrowed to a solitary point. The mental impact is arguably as effective as the win itself. And it will be interesting to see how the leapfrogging of both Cardiff and Bristol City affects them similarly.
Up next, Burton Albion.