Football

Tepid Aston Villa slip as Sheffield Utd hold out despite controversial red


Sheffield Utd secured a vital three points in their unlikely quest to secure Premier League safety and inflicted a huge blow on the European aspirations of Aston Villa.

Aston Villa spurned a glorious opportunity to take the lead with the game’s first opening.

A Bertrand Traore strike deflected high into the air before Ollie Watkins outmuscled his man to win a flick-on.

John McGinn latched on but pulled his shot wide in an effort his reaction suggested he should’ve done better with.

Both sides were struggling to make a telling impact in the final third until Sheffield Utd burst into life on the half-hour mark.

George Baldock cut inside after getting forward down the right before firing a low drive that seemed destined to flash harmlessly wide.

David McGoldrick gambled at the far post, however, adjusting his bodily superbly to prod the ball in off the crossbar to hand the hosts an unlikely lead.

Villa sought to hit back immediately, but without talisman Jack Grealish, lacked a cutting edge in the final third as half-time neared.

The visitors came within a whisker of regaining parity ten minutes after the interval.

Anwar El Ghazi found Matt Targett who whipped an inch-perfect delivery onto the head of Watkins.

The striker glanced a header goalward but the ball crashed off the post to hand the Blades a major reprieve.

Villa were firmly in the ascendancy and their hopes of forging a comeback were handed a boost when Phil Jagielka saw red.

The veteran centre-half brought El Ghazi down 25 yards from goal and saw an initial yellow card for his troubles. A VAR review deemed the foul to have denied a goalscoring opportunity, however, with the red card emerging from the referee’s pocket.

Villa introduced Ross Barkley and Morgan Sanson to the action as they sought to capitalise on the overwhelming bulk of possession they would soon have.

Aaron Ramsdale would’ve expected a busy final half hour but his backline were thwarting Villa’s forwards with block after block.

The visitors’ crossing radar was also off, ensuring the expected late onslaught did not produce the type of chances Dean Smith would’ve expected.

A frantic final few minutes saw Villa step on the accelerator. Emiliano Martinez joined the attack for a pair of corners, but it wasn’t to be Villa’s day as they slumped to a damaging defeat at Bramall Lane.

 





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