Aston Villa visited the Amex Stadium on Wednesday to face Brighton and Hove Albion in what was supposed to be a challenging game but turned out to be the very opposite. It was an all Premier League affair in this Carabao Cup fixture, with the newly promoted Villans and three-year running Brighton.
Graham Potter, ridden with a team full of injuries started with the youngest ever XI of this season. His side averaged an age of just 22 years and 35 days and featured nine senior debutants. That’s not to say Aston Villa started at any advantage as both teams went into the match having won just one Premier League game apiece, with Dean Smith’s side sitting at 19th position in the Premier League’s current stats.
Aston Villa gave an impressive run nevertheless, swarming all over the Seagulls to win 3-1. Jota gave the visitors the lead, scoring his first goal since his Summer switch from Villa’s West Midland rivals, Birmingham City. The midfielder sent a fine left-footed drive into the back of the net following a nice set up from Matt Targett and Conor Hourihane.
Great movement could be seen down the left flank from Villa, though Albion’s youngsters had the Lions acting fast on their feet with the ball. Villa amassed 70% possession and an excellent ten shots on target, compared to Albion’s six. The Seagulls goalkeeper, David Button was forced to make some key saves and did well to do so too, given the ball was in his sides box so often.
More success came for Aston Villa in the form of Hourihane. He hasn’t seen as much playing time as he would have liked to so far this season and the midfielder definitely proved that he deserves to be in the starting XI every time. He was expertly picked out by Keinan Davis, who came charging down the left flank after collecting the ball from a link-up between Trezeguet and McGinn. Hourihane smashed Davis’s cutback into the corner of the net – staking his first goal since last season’s Championship play-off semi-finals. Villa were 2-0 up and asserting their authority at Amex Stadium.
But Brighton & Hove Albion soon got a foothold back in the game. 17-year-old Haydon Roberts, halved the hosts deficit with a sublime goal to put the Seagulls back in the game. Brighton may have even drawn level with Villa had Aaron Connolly’s shot not hit the crossbar!
But in the 77th minute, Villa made sure they would progress by re-establishing their two-goal lead. Just 11 minutes after coming on, captain and striker, Jack Grealish hammered one home for Aston Villa, sealing their win in this round of the Carabao Cup. Grealish is yet to score in the Premier League so no doubt will be very pleased with his performance at the Amex Arena.
Albion manager, Graham Potter said that his young players shouldn’t be too disheartened by the loss and was impressed by their performance. He also inferred that the fact Dean Smith resorted to bringing on Jack Grealish speaks volumes about how well his side were performing. Smith responded with saying that his side aren’t “take winning lightly” in the Carabao Cup.
This victory is Aston Villa’s first against Brighton & Hove Albion at the Amex since the 1981/82 European Cup campaign. Progression sees Villa host the Wolverhampton Wanderers in the fourth round after Wolves defeated Reading 4-2 in a penalty shootout. The last time Villa played Wolves, Villa ran riot on their Midland rivals, winning 4-1 although the Wolverhampton Wanderers ultimately won the league that year. The all Midlands Derby, which is set to take place in late October is set to be electric as the pair renew their rivalry on the pitch at Villa Park.
Will Nuno Santo’s men struggle against the Lions?
They had a much harder time than the Villans in their third round fixture against Reading at the Molineux Stadium. It was Wolves debutant Bruno Jordao, that gave the hosts their lead. In the 27th minute his shot slipped through Joao Virginia’s fingers to mark his first goal for his side but his dream debut soon turned sour when he was later carried off in a stretcher after suffering a twisted ankle. Wolves midfielder, Meritan Shabani also went down in a traumatic way during the match and had to be carried off in a stretcher, adding to Nuno’s list of injured players.
Wolves still lead 1-0 for over 70 minutes of the game but couldn’t build on that first goal. The second-half was a much slower game, without as much creative play and any resolute chances being made. John Ruddy made a good save in the second-half to prevent it from being 1-1 earlier on in the game and though Wolves were the better team overall, Reading did well to apply pressure to their midfield and defence but nevertheless and in dramatic fashion, Reading drew level.
It was well into stoppage time, at the 99th minute when Lucas Boye headed a stunning cross from John Swift into the hosts net causing a deadlock. In the penalty shootout Ruddy eased some of the pressure off of Wolves – diving to the left to save Swift’s shot and then Wolves saw more relief when Boye blasted his attempt over the bar. Albion’s Virginia just couldn’t redeem himself after the error with Jordao and allowed Wolves to scrape through after being unable to deny any of their shots, sparking outrage amongst the Seagulls fans.
Top form from both sides will be needed when Wolves travel down to Villa Park, though Aston Villa and Wolves would probably be better off without this clash so they can focus on Premier League success. But this is the furthest Villa have got in the Carabao Cup for a number of years and the Lions are hungry for the win, will they be able to slay the Wolves?