Despite two goals in the second half, a torrid first half display from Aston Villa saw them lose their opening fixture of the new season.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
Aston Villa travelled to Vicarage Road for the ‘Graham Taylor Matchday’, the opening game of the new Premier League season against Watford. Aston Villa’s line-up included new signings Danny Ings, Emiliano Buendia and Ashley Young. Tyrone Mings would start his first game as the new captain, with McGinn as his vice.
Both sides enjoyed runs in behind the opposition defence, but the opening ten minutes saw a relatively even showing between the two.
In the 11th minute, however, Watford found themselves ahead. Emmanuel Dennis, a debutant for Watford, found himself with two chances in the Aston Villa box. Ismaila Sarr got away from Matt Targett, before crossing into the box where Dennis had an attempt blocked by Konsa, before his rebound attempt snuck under Emiliano Martinez.
In the opening fifteen minutes, it was clear that Sarr was going to be a problem. Matt Targett found himself isolated on a handful of occasions, and certainly required help moving forward from Marvelous Nakamba or Ashley Young if Aston Villa were to keep him quiet.
Aston Villa did grow into the game around the 20 minute mark, but still hadn’t registered a shot on target in the opening period. In the 22nd minute, Watford’s Kucka was booked for a late challenge on John McGinn.
Three minutes before the end of the half, and Watford doubled their lead. Emmanuel Dennis found Ismaila Sarr in acres of space down the right, who attempted to cut across Martinez with his shot. His shot ricocheted off Tyrone Mings’ outstretched foot, before looping over the rooted Martinez and nestling in the far corner.
The sides went in at the break with Watford leading by two.
In the second half, Aston Villa replaced Matt Targett, who had struggled all through the first half, with Jacob Ramsey. Ashley Young dropped into left-back.
Jacob Ramsey’s introduction added a little spark, with the midfielder offering a cross across the face of the Watford goal, before he then fired an attempt over the bar shortly after.
Tyrone Mings was booked just after the 50th minute, for a late barge into Craig Cathcart
On the hour mark, Aston Villa made their second change – replacing Anwar El Ghazi with debutant Leon Bailey.
Dennis needed to be replaced in the 65th minute for Watford, before Cucho Hernandez would make his debut four years after signing for the club. Within a minute, the forward had scored. After advantage was played by Mike Dean, Hernandez found himself out on the left, before curling an effort into the right – where the ball hit the post and nestled into the net.
Two minutes later, and John McGinn gave Aston Villa hope. Leon Bailey out on the left swept a ball into a central position, where McGinn waited to sidefoot a first-time shot into the back of the Watford net. A minute later, and Buendia was replaced by Bertrand Traore.
The final twenty or so minutes were very much Aston Villa’s, but despite numerous attacks and prolonged time in the Watford final third, nothing seemed to come off for Dean Smith’s side.
In the fifth minute of added time, Bertrand Traore won a penalty, drawing a poor challenge from Masina. Danny Ings stepped up to take it and delivered from the spot for a debut goal – but it was too little too late for Aston Villa with just seconds remaining – despite the best efforts of Tyrone Mings marauding into the second half.
A poor first half cost Aston Villa in this game, and positives were visible in the second – but not the start we’d have likely with an opening day loss.