Brentford stick to their task to overcome Gerrard’s depleted Villa

Brentford stick to their task to overcome Gerrard’s depleted Villa

by Emily Smith
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Home Aston Villa Brentford stick to their task to overcome Gerrard’s depleted Villa

Date published: Sunday 2nd January 2022 5:40 – Ian King

Brentford didn’t much deserve a win against Aston Villa for any reason but their own tenacity, but they’ve got that in spades this season.

It was, as things turned out, a frustrating afternoon for Steven Gerrard. The Aston Villa manager had seen his team take an early lead at The Brentford Community Stadium against a home side that has been ravaged by injuries and illness, but Villa couldn’t quite apply the finishing touch to a fairly accomplished performance and Brentford fought their way back against the odds to claim an unlikely win from a match that they hadn’t looked like taking all three points from before Mads Roerslev drove the ball in from an angle with ten minutes to play.

Since taking control at Villa Park in the middle of November, Steven Gerrard has been a qualified success in his first Premier League managerial position. The only teams to have beaten Villa since he took control of the club had been Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea, and two of those had only managed to sneak past them by the odd goal.

Ambition levels at Villa Park remain extremely high, but Gerrard has made a cautiously positive start in a job that had proved too much for his predecessor, Dean Smith. He’d managed four wins as the manager of Aston Villa, and three of those came against Brighton, Crystal Palace and Leicester City, all clubs who Gerrard may consider direct rivals in what is starting to look like a mass scramble for eighth. His start had been cautiously optimistic.

Brentford, meanwhile, continue to just about defy those who confidently predicted before the start of the season that their stay in the Premier League would be brief. The momentum of their joyous start to the season couldn’t be maintained, but although they’d dropped to 14th place in the table by the end of the year they remain capable, both in terms of ability and spirit, of pulling something out of the bag against just about any opposition. Thomas Frank could certainly have been forgiven approaching this match with a degree of trepidation. He had eight players missing for this game, but on this occasion there was no decision to give the players a break. But as things turned out, his rag tag team had enough about them to take all three points.

It took Villa just over a quarter of an hour to get going, a pass from Emi Buendia to Danny Ings which was followed by a low, angled shot across the Brentford goalkeeper Martinez. Villa continued to dominate and continued to impress, but they also failed to capitalise on the possession that they held and the chances they created, and with three minutes of the half to play, Yoane Wissa curled a delightful shot from twenty yards to bring the home side level. With Villa looking affected by a goal that came almost completely out of the blue, Brentford might even have grabbed the lead before half-time.

The second half saw Villa continuing to dominate possession without being able to break Brentford down, and as the second half progressed the home side started to play with greater confidence. With ten minutes to play the winning goal came when Mads Roerslev found himself in space in the right have side of the Aston Villa penalty area and, after having his first shot superbly saved by Emi Martinez, drove the rebound back aunder the goalkeeper and in to win the game for Brentford. There was a late scare when Ings’ low shot was had to be saved by Martinez, and when Trezeguet went down under a tackle in stoppage-time (there was, it should be added, nothing controversial whatsoever about the decision to wave thataway) but the late goal, it turned out, had come too late for Aston Villa to be able to launch a fightback of their own.

This was a big win for Brentford. They’d lost their previous two matches, and there’s always the danger of a tail-off turning into a slump for a newly-promoted team in the Premier League, and while there was always plenty of breathing space below them in the bottom half of the table, the twenty points with which they went into this game wouldn’t be enough to keep them up come the end of this season, so getting points on the board is important if their recent drift wasn’t to be become something more troubling. This win lifts them above Aston Villa to 12th place in the Premier League table, twelve points above third from bottom Burnley. They will now be expecting to finish the job of securing a second successive season of top flight football with room to spare.

Aston Villa remain something of a work in progress. They dominated without controlling and pressurised without threatening, but a fourth defeat from six matches does indicate that Steven Gerrard’s new manager bounce may be starting to slow. This result isn’t a disaster – as above, three of those four losses came against the Premier League’s top three, and this was his first Premier League match they’ve lost that he might realistically have believed they would win before the match. A tail-off? Definitely. A slump? Not yet, but there is work to be done. Brentford, meanwhile, continue to confound those who expect their season to sink into a tail-spin at any moment.

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