Aston Villa returned to Premier League football this evening against Sheffield United.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
Aston Villa returned to Premier League action this evening, to an empty Villa Park adorned with flags, with symbols in respect towards the National Health Service and the Black Lives Matter movement on their shirts.
Before kick-off, the entirety of the match day players on the pitch, and the referee, all took a knee in support of Black Lives Matter before the game actually started.
Aston Villa had the better chance in the opening five, as Grealish played a ball to Davis in the Sheffield United box, using his strength to hold off and burst past three United players before his cross for El Ghazi was blocked out for a corner.
The resulting corner eventually fell well for Conor Hourihane who hit it on a half-volley, which was saved by Dean Henderson.
Keinan Davis had another opportunity from a corner as Grealish belted the ball towards the back post, where Hause headed back towards the near post for Davis, who headed over the bar under pressure by Sander Berge.
McGinn came close with a header in the sixteenth minute, but it was collected calmly by Henderson in the Sheffield net.
Douglas Luiz was booked for a body check on McBurnie ten minutes later as Sheffield United looked to counter.
Orjan Nyland got away with metaphorical murder just before half-time as Norwood swung in a free-kick which the Norwegian keeper struggled to grasp, before he stumbled backwards and was then blocked from stumbling back forwards by Keinan Davis. The Sheffield United players clamoured for a goal, but the referee’s watch didn’t buzz and the goal wasn’t given.
It seemed as the game resumed, that the goal should have in fact been given, but Hawkeye (the goal line technology system) was having issues during the first half.
Keinan Davis had a great opportunity to put Aston Villa ahead in the 52nd minute, but Dean Henderson’s strong hand stopped the young striker from grabbing a Premier League goal.
There was another opportunity for Keinan Davis just five minutes later as Jack Grealish played a wonderfully weighted pass through for El Ghazi, who cut the ball across the face of goal. Davis couldn’t quite catch the pass and the ball flew past him.
McGinn produced a save from Henderson shortly after as the ball fell to him outside of the box. He attempted to curl the ball to the top right corner of the net, but Henderson managed an acrobatic save to push the ball out for a corner.
The 66th minute brought forward a double substitution for both sides, as Freeman and McGoldrick entered the field of play for Sheffield United, replacing Sharp and Berge, whilst El Ghazi and Davis made was for Samatta and Trezeguet for Aston Villa.
Nine minutes later saw John McGinn’s first appearance since his injury come to an end, replaced by Marvelous Nakamba, and then Ezri Konsa – who had been struggling with cramp – replaced by Ahmed Elmohamady.
Chris Wilder made changes with ten minutes to go, replacing Oli McBurnie with Lys Mousset.
Aston Villa’s perceived ‘dominance’ in the game seemed to tail off as the second half edged towards its conclusion.
The game ended goalless, somewhat luckily for Villa. But a point on the board as the season resumes.