Aston Villa faced off against Midland’s side Walsall in a pre-season game in humid conditions – running out 5-1 victors.
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Starting XI: Lovre Kalinic, Frederic Guilbert, Bjorn Engels, Tyrone Mings, Matt Targett, Conor Hourihane, Henri Lansbury, Jack Grealish (C), Jota Peleteiro, Andre Green, Wesley
Subs: Jed Steer, James Bree, Kortney Hause, Easah Suliman, Birkir Bjarnason, John McGinn, Callum O’Hare, Keinan Davis, Rushian Hepburn-Murphy, Scott Hogan
Aston Villa played their third pre-season game against Walsall this evening in hot, humid conditions. Bjorn Engels made his first start for the club alongside Tyrone Mings at centre-back.
Both sides enjoyed their fair share of the ball in the opening six minutes.
And it was a beautiful opening ten minutes for Aston Villa, with Wesley holding the ball up before playing it to Jack Grealish, who played it on to a marauding Frederic Guilbert. The Frenchman played the ball into the box, where it was finished first-time by fellow new signing Jota at the near post – scoring his first goal in claret and blue.
And just two minutes later, Brazilian record-signing Wesley made it two. Jota raced forward to the opposition box before playing the ball into the big forward who slotted it home across the ground. Both accounts are now open.
Jack Grealish could have made is three on the 20 minute mark as Jota played a chipped ball over the top, where the Villa starlet was waiting – but he couldn’t quite get the contact on the ball that was necessary and fired over the bar.
Walsall’s Adebayo could have got one back for Walsall in the 25th with a side-footed shot. The angle was wrong for the forward, beating Lovre Kalinic, but also beating the post with his shot.
In the 28th minute, Aston Villa got a first look at who might be the penalty taker for the season ahead, as Wesley gathered the ball in the box before being dragged to the floor. Wesley himself stepped up to take the shot, taking a slow and laboured half-jog up to the ball before striking the it powerfully into his top-left side of the net.
Just a minute later, Walsall grabbed one back. Sinclair, determined with the ball after some defensive laxness from Aston Villa, worked his way into the centre before firing into the top-right corner of the net past an outstretched Lovre Kalinic.
Andre Green looked to respond straight away after a ball from Wesley, but fired directly at the Walsall goalkeeper.
In the 34th, Aston villa strung some sublime passes together, with Grealish, Jota and Lansbury connecting well, before the ball landed to Lansbury in the box and his resulting shot forced a save from Roberts in the Walsall net. Henri should have perhaps let the ball run for an awaiting Wesley who could have netted his hat-trick in the first half.
And Wesley had another half-chance for a hat-trick just before the end of the half, with Jota intercepting an awful cross-field ball before playing Wesley in on the right side of the box. Wesley charged into the box before delaying his run, feigning to shoot, and playing a ball across the box for Henri Lansbury – who couldn’t quite find his feet in the box.
Just afterwards, Jota grabbed his second of the game. The Spaniard has looked comfortable in claret and blue since joining, as he grabbed a loose ball on the edge of the Walsall box, before taking a touch and firing a low shot inside the near post.
Aston Villa went in at the break leading four goals to one, with braces from Wesley and Jota – two new signings arguably making it hard for others to take their spot in the starting eleven.
Aston Villa started the second half with intensity – showcasing beautiful short passing early on.
Andre Green could have made it five just ten minutes into the second half as the young winger found himself through on goal after some nifty footwork squeezed him through two Walsall defenders, before he thumped a shot which thumped just as hard back out into the box as it crashed against the bar.
Number five came shortly after, however. Wesley threatened down the right-hand side before pulling the ball back to Jack Grealish, who was unmarked in the box. He slotted the ball away tidily and with minimal fuss.
The 70th minute brought along wide-scale changes for Aston Villa, with Lovre Kalinic remaining in goal. The outfield ten consisted of a back four of Neil Taylor, Kortney Hause, Easah Suliman and James Bree, a midfield of John McGinn, Callum O’Hare and Birkir Bjarnason, Rushian Hepburn-Murphy and Keinan Davis taking their place on the wing, and Scott Hogan up front.
Two of Aston Villa’s youngsters could have made it six goals for the side in the 74th as Callum O’Hare played a perfectly weighted pass over the Walsall defence, which Rushian Hepburn-Murphy headed just wide.
Hepburn-Murphy showed why he’s getting game time this pre-season shortly after, dispossessing a Walsall player in midfield before making a powerful winding run into the box. He was dispossessed near the touchline and the ball went out for a corner. A minute later his touch was sublime as he controlled the ball into the box before hesitating a little too much and failing to get a shot away.
A collision of heads slowed the proceedings down just before the 80th minute as James Bree and Callum Cockerill-Mollett collided. Both players seemed to recover after the initial impact and play resumed.
Aston Villa scored their sixth, but it was unfortunately called offside. Birkir Bjarnason played a slicing ball across to Rushian-Hepburn Murphy, who controlled it and played it onto his weak foot. He fired a cross into the face of goal where Scott Hogan finished well, only for the flag to be raised.
All in all, a strong run out for another twenty-one of Aston Villa’s players, and competition is truly starting to heat up for the first game of the season against Tottenham Hotspur.