Despite their best efforts, Aston Villa could not muster enough to beat Brighton & Hove Albion at Villa Park – their third defeat at home on the bounce.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
Aston Villa returned to action following the international break, back at Villa Park for a three-o’clock kick off against Brighton & Hove Albion that could see the home side top the Premier League if they won.
Jack Grealish won a foul within the first thirty seconds near the left-hand corner flag – perhaps a sign of things to come moving forward. Ross Barkley took the resulting free-kick, before dropping to the floor and clutching his hamstring.
The number 20’s game was open after the opening couple of minutes, with Conor Hourihane warming up on the touchline and ready to go – but it was Bertrand Traoré who replaced the injured Barkley – with the winger playing almost as a second striker.
Trézéguet had the best opportunity in the opening ten minutes as Traoré swung in a free-kick that missed Ezri Konsa but bounced towards the Egyptian at the far post, who’s half-volleyed shot hit Ben White and bounced away from goal.
It was Brighton, however, who took the lead in the 12th minute. Aston Villa were caught with their high line and Welbeck found his way through on goal with the majority of Aston Villa’s defensive line in the Brighton half. Welbeck approached goal before slowing down and chipping the ball over the onrushing Emiliano Martinez – before wheeling away in celebration after his clinical finish.
Trézéguet, in his 50th appearance for Aston Villa, should have equalised in the 18th minute as the ball fell to him in the box – but his first shot was blocked before the ball rebounded to him and he fired high and wide past an empty top left corner.
Bertrand Traoré forced Mat Ryan into a good save down to his left as the Burkinabe international fired towards the bottom right – but the Australian was wise to it and palmed the ball away. Shortly after, and Emiliano Martinez was forced into a good save of his own, getting down low high off his line to deny Neal Maupay.
Before the half hour mark, Jack Grealish attempted a curling effort into a similar position that Traoré’s effort had reached a few minutes before – but Mat Ryan was able to palm the ball around the post.
Several minutes before half-time and Aston Villa came closer to an equaliser as a free-kick found Tyrone Mings, who’s swinging connection with the ball nearly looped over Mat Ryan, who had to volley the ball off the line in an unorthodox fashion to keep Brighton ahead. Just minutes later, and Watkins had an opportunity to level the scoreline, but Ben White was able to just get to the ball ahead of the forward and usher the ball out for a corner.
Matt Targett was booked a minute before added time after receiving a hand in the face from Neal Maupay, before going in for another challenge and leaving an elbow on the forward who dramatically hit the deck.
Aston Villa went in at half time behind, but should have really had a number of goals with Brighton & Hove Albion very much riding their luck in the first half.
The second half resumed with a change for Brighton, with Joel Veltman replacing Lallana who is rumoured to have had a tight groin at the end of the half.
The first half started in the perfect fashion for Aston Villa, winning a free kick within the first minute again. Bertrand Traoré whipped in another teasing ball and Ezri Konsa arrived at the back post with an outstretched volleyed effort into the back of the net.
Just ten minutes later, and Brighton & Hove Albion had taken the lead again. Solly March, on the edge of Aston Villa’s box was found with a pinpoint pass from Pascal Groß before he curled an effort with his right foot into the top right.
The game opened up for a period after prolonged Aston Villa domination despite being a goal down, allowing Brighton more time on the ball and more attempts to get the ball into the home side’s box.
The 75th minute saw Aston Villa make their final two changes as Anwar El Ghazi and Conor Hourihane replaced Bertrand Traoré and Douglas Luiz.
Brighton made a second change with 12 minutes remaining, replacing Neal Maupay with Dan Burn.
Trézéguet has another chance with four minutes remaining before added time, but the ball fell to him awkwardly and the Egyptian fired well over the bar.
Jack Grealish was booked as the game went into added time, and shortly after Tariq Lamptey picked up his second yellow card of the second half for a challenge on Jack Grealish and left the pitch after providing much annoyance for the Aston Villa defence in his game.
Aston Villa were awarded a penalty in the 93rd minute after Trézéguet was kicked heavily in the box as Solly March followed through onto the winger after getting a touch the ball – but VAR told referee Michael Oliver to check the on-pitch screen and the decision was overturned.
The home side were dominant going forward, and should have scored more – but it was one of those days at Villa Park where nothing would fall for the home side.