Reading 1 Aston Villa 2 – Report

Reading 1 Aston Villa 2 - Report

Jordan Ayew’s 90th minute penalty gave manager Steve Bruce victory in just his second game in charge, earned Villa just their second win of the season and, most importantly, ended the agony which had blighted every away day since the 1-0 win at Bournemouth, all the way back in August last year.Yet for much of the evening, it looked like being the same old story. Villa, who led through Jonathan Kodjia’s heavily deflected strike, appeared to have blown their chance of victory when Yann Kermorgant levelled, having converted the rebound after Pierluigi Gollini had saved Danny Williams’ spot-kick.But with 90 minutes almost on the clock, substitute Ayew tumbled under the challenge of Liam Moore and then, with 4,000 fans watching from behind the goal, stepped up to coolly convert the spot-kick.With Villa having conceded a host of late goals themselves this season, there was no ignoring the irony in the nature of the finish. But it was also just rewards for arguably the most committed performance the team has produced this season. Bruce might only have been in charge for five days and taken four training sessions but on this evidence the new manager is already getting his message through.Without the late goal and even allowing for the disappointment of the equaliser, this already felt like a step forward. Now the manager will hope the confidence boost from Ayew’s late winner can help his team take a giant leap forward.Changes had been expected for Bruce’s second game in charge and the manager made five, though three were enforced. Among those coming out of the starting XI was Jack Grealish, whose three-game suspension for a stamp on Wolves midfielder Conor Coady was confirmed by the club less than three hours prior to kick-off.Injured defensive duo Micah Richards and Tommy Elphick were replaced by Alan Hutton and Nathan Baker, with Leandro Bacuna coming in for Grealish. There was also a place in midfield for Gary Gardner, with former Royals favourite Aaron Tshibola dropping to the bench, while Rudy Gestede replaced Ross McCormack up front.The Benin international was deployed in a lone role up front to start and Bruce’s decision to flood the midfield worked well, with Villa instantly looking more solid and organised.Their final ball, however, left much to be desired with Alan Hutton and Albert Adomah both guilty of wasting good positions. The latter delayed a fraction too long before playing in Kodjia, with the result the striker denied a one-on-one with Ali Al Habsi by a linesman’s flag.Villa’s only serious attempt on goal of the opening half-hour was a long-range Gardner effort which Al Habsi held at the second attempt.It was at least on target, which was more than the hosts managed during an opening half-hour which only occasionally threatened to spark. John Swift sent an early long-range effort wide of goal and also saw a free-kick deflected off target.
Gardner, who was not even selected in the squad against Wolves, was meanwhile enjoying a quietly impressive game and it was his vision which helped Villa take the lead seven minutes before the break.His lofted through ball sent Adomah scampering away down the left and when the winger’s pull-back was missed by Gestede, Kodjia arrived at the far post to hammer home his third goal for the club, thanks to a large deflection off Blackett, who had placed himself in front of Al Habsi.Having got their noses in front, Villa almost undid the good work within 60 seconds when Chris Gunter broke into the right-hand side of the box. His cross escaped the clutches of Gollini, who was able to block as Swift attempted to hook home the loose ball.Villa’s pressing and work-rate continued to cause problems for the hosts early in the second half and after Leandro Bacuna had shot narrowly wide from distance, Al Habsi was almost guilty of giving the ball straight to the midfielder as he was closed down.But from seemingly being in control, Villa handed the hosts a way back into the game as Cissokho gave away a spot-kick for the second successive game. A long-ball caught out the visiting defence and the left-back completely mistimed his challenge as he looked to rob McCleary.Williams’ spot-kick was saved by Gollini but the…

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