Clinical finishing separates Villa and Burton

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Aston Villa 2-1 Burton Albion – mirror.co.uk

The nature of Aston Villa’s fortuitous 2-1 win over Burton Albion on Boxing Day seemed in keeping with the themes of both teams’ seasons. The Brewers once again lost a game they deserved a point from – no more than a point in this blog’s view – while Steve Bruce’s side continue to edge close games with late goals, Ross McCormack the latest saviour this December.

The 30-year-old had little support in the first half as Burton started well. The powerful Lloyd Dyer caused problems for a timid Alan Hutton and the winger’s cross was unintentionally diverted goalward by Mile Jedinak, Mark Bunn saving. Leandro Bacuna opened the scoring on 15 minutes, having missed a good chance three minutes earlier. Albert Adomah was one of Villa’s brighter first half performers and his cross from deep was nodded home.

After the goal, Bruce’s troops sat back and slowed the tempo down, unwilling to string passes together and construct attacks. It was hard to decipher whether this caution represented new-found organization or low confidence. Burton’s passing in the final third could have been smoother but they were quick to second balls and Jamie Ward’s spectacular scissor kick saw them equalize.

Burton and the lively Ward, who soon had another curling shot saved by Bunn, took confidence from the goal. Panic set into the Villa team after the equalizer, with Jonathan Kodjia starved of service and Gary Gardner anonymous in midfield.

The latter was replaced by Jack Grealish, who showed confidence in possession and increased control gave Kodjia the encouragement to run in behind. Burton could have better plugged the gap between right wing-back John Brayford and right-centre-back John Mousinho. That was where Villa pounced for their better second half attacks, Bacuna’s left-wing cross missed by Kodjia before Adomah fired over.

Perhaps through endeavour more than finesse, Burton had a spell of pressure midway through the second half, Dyer racing through on goal before his strike clipped the outside of the post. Had one of Villa’s expensive forwards been placed in the same situation, it is likely that they would have scored.

Clinical finishing proved the difference when substitute Jordan Ayew set up McCormack at the far post and the ex-Fulham forward showed unerring composure to slot home. Tom Naylor forced a reflex save from Bunn in the dying moments, but the goalkeeper’s workload was not consistent with the competitive nature of Burton’s performance.

If the Brewers want to stay up, it is no longer enough for them to simply hold their own, they must be more clinical in the final third. Aston Villa did take their chances, even if one might expect more controlled displays from a team with ambitions of promotion. Whether these late winners are showing a strong mentality, or simply papering over cracks, only time will tell.

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