Aston Villa edge past 10-man Sheffield United
Aston Villa - Sheffield United: The Blades battled hard after going down to 10 men just 12 minutes in, but Villa secured the win thanks to a header from Ezri Konsa.
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Dean Smith’s side huffed and puffed but Sheffield United will be ruing their luck as John Lundstram saw his penalty kick saved by Villa’s debutant goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez in the first half.
The Blades have now lost their opening two games of the season without scoring, while Villa have one win from one game.
3 things we learned: Aston Villa - Sheffield United
1. Debutants impress for Villa: Martinez saved a penalty kick on his debut. Matty Cash was solid at right back and whipped in some lovely crosses. Ollie Watkins forced the red card which swung the game in Villa’s favor and came close to a debut goal. Before this game Dean Smith said he was focused on bringing in quality over quantity. It looks like he’s done that. With Bertrand Traore watching on from the stands, he gives them another attacking option too and with Grealish signed up to a new deal, perhaps Villa could steer themselves well clear of relegation trouble this season.
2. Blades blunt: Sheffield United played really well. They battled hard after going down to 10 men and kept playing the same way, with center backs popping up in attack and every single player ran themselves into the ground. Chris Wilder can’t complain with this display. That said, the Blades have now lost six games in a row in all competitions if you stretch that run back to last season and they seem to have just lost that cutting edge which propelled them towards the top six for most of last season. After two defeats from two to start this PL season, it doesn’t get any easier for the Blades. They have Leeds, Arsenal, Fulham, Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea in their next six games. Sheffield United have made a habit of proving people wrong since they returned to the top-flight but regaining momentum will be tough.
3. Solid defense the way forward for Villa: Mings and Konsa combined for the goal but it was their work at the other end of the pitch which has impressed more. At the end of last season Villa looked much better at the back and that is what saved them from relegation. Konsa and Mings at center back and Cash and Targett at full back is solid and with Martinez behind them, they now have a reliable goalkeeper to back them up. Defense is key for Villa, because with Grealish, Watkins, Trezeguet and McGinn going forward, they have always looked like they can create and score goals.
Man of the Match: John McGinn - Worked so hard in midfield and did all he could to help Villa get on the front foot.
Aston Villa put Sheffield United under pressure early on as the hosts whipped in plenty of crosses from wide areas. Grealish was a threat as Villa’s new boys settled into their Premier League debuts pretty well and they received a massive boost as John Egan was sent off just 12 minutes in.
The Sheffield United skipper pulled back Ollie Watkins after one long ball over the top and was adjudged to have denied a goalscoring opportunity, as VAR checked the decision but Egan was off and the Blades had to play close to 80 minutes down a man.
Despite having the man advantage Villa struggled to carve out any clear-cut chances in the first half and Sheffield United instead came the closest to opening the scoring.
Ollie Burke did brilliantly to run at goal and pass for Chris Basham, who was taken down by Matt Targett and a penalty was given. However, debutant Emiliano Martinez saved John Lundstram’s penalty kick superbly to keep the score level.
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In the second half Watkins was off target with a header as Villa dominated possession but the Blades remained resolute and a threat on the counter.
Just as Villa looked to be running out of ideas, they took the lead. Tyrone Mings flicked the ball on and Konsa finished with a header as he popped up with yet another important goal.
Watkins curled just over late on, and Grealish had a shot deflected over, as Villa pushed to seal the win but they didn’t need a second as they started off the campaign with three points on the board.