Aston Villa 2-2 Brentford Six Things: thriller at Villa Park

 

Jonathan Kodjia – birminghammail.co.uk

Jonathan Kodjia’s 95th minute equalizer secured Aston Villa a point, which was the least they deserved, in an enthralling 2-2 draw with Brentford at Villa Park on Wednesday night. Here’s Six Things from the game.

The early sucker-punch

Brentford had been forced onto the back-foot for much of the first half, leaving few opportunities for their forwards to show what they can do, but the front trio provided a timely reminder of that on 22 minutes. Alan Hutton failed to close down Sergi Canos, allowing the sprightly Spaniard to deliver a pin-point cross to the back-post, where Ollie Watkins rose above Axel Tuanzebe to nod the ball on for Neal Maupay who, amid the chaos, held his position to execute a finely-balanced, rifled finish into the roof of the net. It was a superbly worked goal from The Bees, but they were still slightly fortunate to be ahead.

Villa’s diversified threat

In your typical Villa game, there is a huge creative burden on Jack Grealish, but that changed slightly here. The midfielder was excellent here, as usual, but the difference was he had more movement around him and that made the Midlanders more effective as an attacking unit. Albert Adomah caused problems for Henrik Dalsgaard down the left, Tuanzebe and Ahmed Elmohamady worked in tandem down the right while John McGinn, an August addition from Hibernian, offered the energy to press but also fine technical ability, meaning opposing teams could not afford to focus solely on stopping Grealish. Jonathan Kodjia had asked questions of the sturdy Chris Mepham via the right channel in the first half but, after roaming over to the other side, he made a key contribution. On 39 minutes, the individualistic forward turned a potentially semi-fit Ezri Konsa with ease, then fired low and hard inside Daniel Bentley’s near-post.

Subs changed the game

Villa started the second half by applying similar pressure, but the game turned on substitutions.¬†Adomah had given Villa natural width but once the ex-Middlesbrough winger was replaced by Andre Green, they had two right-footed players on the left – the other being Hutton – which condensed their play. Equally, Bees substitutes Kamohelo Mokotjo and Nico Yennaris offered more of a physical presence in Brentford’s midfield than Lewis MacLeod and Josh McEachran respectively, so with a quarter of the match to go, the Londoners started to win more of the ugly battles. That, in turn, helped them find their composure as a later substitute, wide man Said Benrahma, injected skill and flair. Indeed, Yennaris forced an excellent save from Orjan Nyland with a long-range drive before Ollie Watkins skewed wide from a presentable opening: the warning signs were there.

Maupay’s late strike

The French striker will not be especially popular with Villans after his nasty, ill-judged stamp on McGinn in the first half. However, he appears to have discovered a certain ruthlessness in front of goal that was perhaps lacking last season, even if he was helped by a goalkeeping blunder from Nyland. Watkins teased Tuanzebe before unleashing a firm effort that the Norwegian keeper spilled into the path of Maupay, who bundled the ball home despite Hutton’s despairing last-ditch efforts, as the points looked to be heading to the capital…

Kodjia the saviour

Villa do not exactly have a plethora of strikers to call upon; injuries to the likes of Keinan Davies and Scott Hogan means their reserve striker is Rushian Hepburn-Murphy, who is highly rated at youth level and may be great in a year or two but didn’t exactly grab his chance with both hands at Yeovil in the EFL Cup. It is important, therefore, that Kodjia finds a run of form and even more important that he bagged the 95th minute equalizer. From a deflected cross, he ex-Bristol City forward nodded home his third goal in two games to restore a priceless point which was the least the B6 outfit deserved.

Roles reversed?

One team played on the front foot at a high tempo, but were not quite as clinical as they could have been. The other, meanwhile, defended deeper than they might have liked for long spells but protected their box well and were decisive in front of goal. Those two descriptions fitted Aston Villa and Brentford’s respective performances, but they could also have conveyed the two teams in the opposite order for much of last season. Based on tonight, alone, both teams showed signs of progress in certain areas: Villa looked a more exciting side while Brentford found that finishing touch.