A hat-trick from Conor Hourihane and a Glenn Whelan strike ensured Aston Villa their second victory of pre-season.
Walsall are familiar opponents to Villa’s league preparation, but were second best in every department this evening.
Unlike the two friendlies on Saturday, we lined up with a fully senior side, with Neil Taylor and Richie De Laet as wing backs in a 3-5-2 system.
And De Laet, who has been on fine form already in pre-season, whipped in a ball to Hourihane who managed to get his first of the night albeit aided by a wicked defection to take it past Chris Dunn.
But the Saddlers nearly equalised soon after, Kieron Morris dragging a shot wide from just inside the Villa area.
From the get go it was clear that Steve Bruce instructed his players to keep the ball on the deck, and the new formation coupled with Walsall sitting back allowed Villa to do that.
With 22 minutes gone Hourihane got his second. Jack Grealish played the ball across to the Irishman who curled it in off the post from 20 yards.
And seven minutes from the half-time whistle, Glenn Whelan ended the game as a contest. The midfielder feigned to shoot and beat his man prior to finding the bottom corner.
In the second 45 Andy Cook forced Jed Steer into a low save to his right. Steer, who will be hoping to make himself Villa’s number one this season, hardly put a foot wrong all game.
Normal service was resumed however when Hourihane completed his hat trick. Alan Hutton’s dummy run allowed Henri Lansbury to find space for shot, and ‘the Championship Frank Lampard’ got the telling touch past Dunn.
Jack Grealish was having a field day in the middle, and nearly got an assist when his cross was met by Tommy Elphick in the air. The former Bournemouth defender hit the underside of the bar before James Chester’s follow up was saved.
13 minutes later Walsall got a goal back when Jon Guthrie bundling the ball in at the far post from a corner. 4-1.
But by that time Villa had the game won, and could’ve had more if Andre Green’s shot hadn’t bounced wide off the post and Gary Gardner’s free kick been a few inches lower. Next up for the Pride it’s Burton on Saturday.
Words by Harry Trend (@HazaTrand) // Follow us on Twitter (@claretandview)