Twenty-two Aston Villa first team players enjoyed a dominant 3-0 win against MLS side Minnesota United in their first pre-season game at Allianz Field.
Words by Regan Foy | @FindFoy
Aston Villa took to the field for the first time since gracing the hallowed turf of Wembley against Major League Soccer outfit Minnesota United, otherwise known as The Loons, in an affair that saw Dean Smith field two separate elevens over each half. The game was a near sell-out, despite being a friendly.
Our reporter Mark Jirobe (@VillaMarkPGH) was pitchside to get a number of photographs pre-game. Check our Twitter for more.
Aston Villa First Half XI: Jed Steer, James Bree, Ezri Konsa, Kortney Hause, Matt Targett, Conor Hourihane, Anwar El Ghazi, Jack Grealish, Callum O’Hare, Jota Peleteiro, Wesley
Reserve: Jack Clarke
New signing Wesley Moraes took the first shot of the game, a curling effort from just inside the left-hand side of the box. It flew just over the right-hand side of the bar, but showed promising things to come.
The Villans had another chance go begging just a few minutes later after Jota couldn’t find his feet in the box and let the ball evade him.
Anwar El Ghazi could have given Aston Villa the lead in the ninth minute as Jota played a perfectly weighted ball over the Minnesota United defence, but the Dutch winger could only fire a weak side-footed shot at Bobby Shuttleworth who cleared it well.
Colin Martin had the first chance for Minnesota United after a ball into the box fell to him, before he skewed his shot past the left-hand post.
The 18th minute saw Jack Grealish try a volley from the outside of the box, Derby-esque, from a Conor Hourihane corner. The shot was blocked and went out for another corner which was played short and came to nothing.
Wesley had another opportunity in the 24th as Anwar El Ghazi played a ball into the box that the Brazilian managed to get his head to – but he was always leaning too far back and headed it high above the bar.
Minnesota’s Abu Danladi had a chance to give the hosts the lead in the 27th, but his balance was off and he fired awkwardly at Jed Steer.
Mason Toye could have found an opening in the 35th after a lapse in concentration from the Villa side, but Jed Steer rushed out to slip the ball away.
Just as quickly as there was an opportunity for United, Aston Villa managed to score the first goal of the game via captain Jack Grealish – who dipped the shoulder and skipped to the right before wrapping his foot around the ball and into the back of the net.
Jota very nearly made it two just four minutes later, making a run into the middle of the box and firing a shot towards goal which was tipped back into the box by Shuttleworth. Jack Grealish fired the rebound over the bar.
Aston Villa Second Half XI: Lovre Kalinic, Frederic Guilbert, James Chester, Tyrone Mings, Neil Taylor, John McGinn, Henri Lansbury, Birkir Bjarnason, Andre Green, Keinan Davis, Scott Hogan
Reserve: Jack Clarke
Aston Villa started the second half with a completely new eleven, as listed above.
Birkir Bjarnason fired a long range shot at Shuttleworth in the 53rd, which was easily caught.
Minnesota were defending with a very deep line at this point, making it hard for Aston Villa despite the fresher legs.
Aston Villa had a strong shout for a penalty in the 58th minute, as Keinan Davis attempted to turn inside onto his right foot and was taken down doing so.
New signing Frederic Guilbert looked fired up to play in his first game in an Aston Villa shirt, and his performance echoed this.
Ethan Finlay replaced Mason Toye for Minnesota United in the 68th minute.
Andre Green had a good opportunity in the 69th as Birkir Bjarnason played a ball to him on the left-hand side of the box. He stepped inside before firing a winding ball over Shuttleworth’s bar.
Minnesota made a triple sub in the 71st, with Kevin Molino, Jan Gregus and Ally Nganzi replacing Lawrence Olum, Colin Martins and Miguel Ibarra.
And The Loons could have equalised shortly after, with Ethan Finlay through on goal before Lovre Kalinic grabbed the ball at his feet. Ally Nganzi received a yellow card in the 75th for a hard tackle to the ankles of Henri Lansbury.
John McGinn angled a left-footed free-kick into the box in the 77th, which met the head of James Chester who headed over the bar.
Scott Hogan registered his first shot on goal a minute later, swinging quickly onto his left foot before firing directly at Shuttleworth in the Minnesota United net.
In the 82nd Aston Villa grabbed their second after Frederic Guilbert capitalised on a mistake from the Minnesota left-back, before crossing into the box where the marauding Henri Lansbury took the ball on the volley and smashed it down to the keepers right.
And it was a midfield hat-trick by the 8th, as Andre Green whipped a looping ball to an open Birkir Bjarnason in the centre of the box, unmarked, where the Icelandic veteran dived a header into the same area that Lansbury’s volley found.
All in all, a great first run out for the boys.