Aston Villa returned to action for the first time in a number of months, with a pre-season friendly against local rivals Walsall at the Banks’ Stadium.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
First half XI: Steer, Cash, Konsa (C), S. Revan, Young, J. Ramsey, Nakamba, Buendia, Chukwuemeka, El Ghazi, Watkins
Aston Villa returned to action for the first time this season, for a pre-season friendly at the Banks’ Stadium against local rivals Walsall. The coaching staff planned two sets of eleven players to play each 45 minute half, with a number of youth players, senior players and Aston Villa’s two new signings, Emi Buendia and Ashley Young starting. Ezri Konsa took the captain’s armband.
The game started a little nervy, as you’d expect for a pre-season friendly, but it was Aston Villa who had the first attempt on goal. Matty Cash, fresh off the back of the injury he sustained at the end of last season, fired an attempt from around 30-yards out, which the Walsall ‘keeper Jack Rose couldn’t keep a hold of.
Just a few minutes later and Jed Steer was almost caught out as he attempted a bit of sweeper keeping, flicking the ball over the head of a Walsall attacker before being muscled off the ball. The resulting attempt curled wide of the open net.
Before the ten minute mark, Anwar El Ghazi found Jacob Ramsey through on goal, with the youngster able to get a shot away. His attempt dribbled onto the post and out for a goal kick. Six or so minutes later, and Anwar El Ghazi forced Rose into a strong save at his near post.
Aston Villa took the lead in the 27th minute as a sublime though ball from deep by Emi Buendia found Ollie Watkins – giving fans a taste of what’s to come this season – before the Aston Villa forward rounded the keeper and fired towards goal. The shot deflected off a defender trying to block the shot before nestling in the back of the net.
Matty Cash had another attempt to try and bag a goal in this game in the 33rd minute, meeting the end of a corner kick routine before darting into the box and firing over the bar.
Several minutes before the end of the half, and Buendia and Watkins combined again. It was almost a carbon copy of the first goal, with Buendia picking the ball up deep, near the centre circle, before slipping a long-range sliding through-ball to Watkins, who finished strongly into the bottom right.
Aston Villa went in ahead, two goals to the good at the break.
Second half XI: Steer, Guilbert, Bogarde, Hause, Chrisene, A. Ramsey, Hourihane, McGinn (C), Davis, Wesley, Philogene-Bidace
Early in the second half, Aston Villa’s new XI enjoyed a goalmouth scramble within the opening 60 seconds. Wesley, Philogene-Bidace and Conor Hourihane all had attempts blocked following strong work down the right from Keinan Davis. Davis received some treatment following the scramble, as he looked as if he tweaked his knee. From the resulting corner, both Wesley – on the half volley – and John McGinn had attempts but neither troubled the Walsall ‘keeper.
In the 50th minute, Keinan Davis found Wesley with a strong through ball, with the forward pushing forward before laying the ball into the path of Jaden Philogene-Bidace, who knocked the ball just under the stretching Jack Rose.
Eight minutes later, and Aaron Ramsey produced a strong finish from the edge of the box, taking a touch onto his right foot before, firing towards the bottom left. The 18-year-old’s shot nestled in the bottom right as Aston Villa went 4-0 up.
Keinan Davis had an opportunity just ten minutes before time, but couldn’t stretch to reach the cross which bounced across the face of goal.
With eight minutes remaining, Finnish youth international Viljami Sinisalo replaced Jed Steer in the Aston Villa net.
The game fell into a lull, with Aston Villa losing their edge just a little – but all in all, the 90 minutes across 22 different players showcased the talent in the current senior and youth squad.
A top shift from all involved!