Aston Villa huffed and puffed – but Sheffield United’s resolute defensive performance kept Aston Villa at bay this evening.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
Aston Villa travelled to Bramall Lane to face Sheffield United this evening, without captain Jack Grealish for the third successive game. Sheffield, on the other hand, had a number of key players on the treatment table and a number of stand-in players in key areas of the pitch – with 38-year-old Phil Jagielka offering the prime example.
Sheffield United looked to have an opportunity after a mistake from John McGinn gifted the home side an opportunity in the 7th minute, but the Scot made amends by producing a clean tackle to dispossess George Baldock in the Villa box.
McGinn had perhaps the best opportunity of the opening ten minutes on his 98th appearance for Aston Villa as the ball fell kindly to him in the box. The midfielder swung at the ball with his weaker right foot and the ball sliced past Aaron Ramsdale’s far post.
Ahmed Elmohamady had to be alert a few minutes before the 20th, blocking a volleyed effort from McGoldrick that denied the forward a shot towards Martinez’ exposed net.
Despite Aston Villa threatening Sheffield United throughout the first half an hour, it was Sheffield United that would take the lead, as Baldock’s half-shot-half-pass found the darting McGoldrick who had surged towards the back post. The veteran forward, despite being off-balance, side-footed the ball into the roof of the net and past the rooted Emiliano Martinez.
Bertrand Traore was inches from an equaliser in the 33rd minute, as he dribbled, shimmied and drifted between five Sheffield United defenders – but his final effort was just wide.
McGoldrick was booked for a challenge from behind on John McGinn in added time at the end of the first of half.
The two sides would go in at the break with the home side ahead.
Aston Villa started the second half looking to respond to Sheffield United’s opener – but Wilder’s side looked relatively disciplined defensively and tough to break down.
Ollie Watkins came incredibly close to an equaliser in the 53rd, connecting to the end of Matt Targett’s deep cross with a headed effort that ricocheted off the upright and back into play.
Phil Jagielka was booked for a late challenge on Anwar El Ghazi in the 55th minute as the Dutchman looked to break. VAR checked to see if it was a clear denial of a goal scoring opportunity and if the card should have been upgraded to a red. The referee viewed the screen and almost like the home fixture of this tie, Sheffield United were down to ten men.
In the 67th minute, Morgan Sanson and Ross Barkley replaced Marvelous Nakamba and Jacob Ramsey.
Traore had another opportunity ten minutes later with a weak-footed connection with a half-volley five yards from goal, but the ball was blocked away from goal.
Aston Villa were battering Sheffield United’s door, but the hinges remained in tact and nothing seemed to be falling the way of the Villans. With ten minutes remaining, Keinan Davis entered the party.
With three minutes remaining, Ollie Burke’s 28 minute spell on the pitch came to an end for Sheffield United as Oli McBurnie came on.
In the 90th minute Ezri Konsa chested a corner down and volleyed towards the bottom right, but Ramsdale managed to smother the shot with his legs.
Aston Villa continued to try, dominating proceedings, with Emi Martinez coming up for two corners, but were cast with a disappointing loss to the league’s bottom side.