Aston Villa started the Dean Smith era with a 1-0 win against Swansea City at Villa Park.
Words by Harry Trend (@HazaTrand)
There it is then! Tammy Abraham’s eighth minute header meant Dean Smith got his Aston Villa reign off to a perfect start.
Admittedly, it was squeaky bum time at the end, but Aston Villa showed improvements all over the pitch and managed to hold out for a first league win and clean sheet in five.
It seemed Smith had energised the players in his pre-match team talk as Villa pressed Swansea high early on.
And after eight minutes Tammy Abraham got the opener, the Chelsea loanee heading home Ahmed Elmohamady’s curling cross from the right.
Villa were firmly on top and Swansea weren’t offering much. Seeing Neil Taylor bombing up the wing was an unusual sight and just about summed up Villa’s first half.
Another stand-out performer was John McGinn, who was winning the ball time and time again in midfield. His nicely weighted through pass to Albert Adomah was nearly an assist for the Ghanaian, who’s deflected cross almost found its way inside the post.
Orjan Nyland was only called into action in the dying minutes of the first half when he had to get down low to his left to deny Jay Fulton.
In the second half Villa again asserted their dominance early on. The ball broke loose to Adomah, but the winger drove his half volley just wide – another one of those chances which he might’ve finished last season.
But Villa continued to create. Abraham couldn’t stretch enough to put an end to a lovely counter attacking move and Grealish blazed over Elmohamady’s pullback.
Then Abraham took Adomah cross on his chest prior to powering a shot at goal, a shot which Swans keeper Kristoffer Nordfeldt did well to block.
We just needed that second goal. Abraham came close again, heading over substitute Yannick Bolasie’s cross.
And soon enough, Swansea started to carve out opportunities. The last 20 minutes of the game was the Orjan Nyland show. He had to bail out Villa so many times as the clock slowly ticked its way to ninety. The most impressive piece of goalkeeping coming from a valiant double save including a stop from Mike Van Der Hoorn’s header.
Shout out to Neil Taylor too, who blocked what was a sure-fire equalizer from Conor Roberts.
However, it seemed the football gods were looking down on us. The ball sat up beautifully for Jay Fulton, but his straight and powerful half volley flew just over. A real heart in mouth moment for everyone associated with the Claret and Blue.
Nonetheless we held on. A much needed three points takes us up to 13th at the time of writing. Bring on Norwich on Tuesday!