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Match Report


Posted Sun 23 Apr 17 at 14:30 PM

Report: Aston Villa 1 Blues 0

Blues suffered derby-day defeat at Villa Park on Sunday afternoon in what was Harry Redknapp’s first game in charge. 

Second-half substitute, Gabriel Agbonlahor, struck from close range on the 69th minute to earn the hosts all three points in a fiercely contested encounter. 

The result, which was tough on the visitors, leaves Blues two points above the relegation zone with two games left to play. 

In a match of few clear-cut opportunities, Blues looked comfortable for long spells but were undone after failing to clear from a Villa corner. 

Redknapp made two changes to the side that lost to Burton Albion six days ago. Krystian Bielik and Robert Tesche made way for Maikel Kiftenbeld and Jacques Maghoma in a 4-2-3-1 formation. 

The new management staff had less than a week to work with the players but a renewed confidence and belief was evident from the outset. 

Just seconds into the game, Jacques Maghoma enjoyed a run down the left-wing earning Blues a corner which came to nothing - but the positive intent was clear.

In what was a frantic opening, Jonathan Grounds tested the Villa backline with a fizzing cross before Neil Taylor found the arms of Tomasz Kuszczak from a similar position down the other end.

Craig Gardner was given his customary welcome by the natives as he placed the ball down to take the first in a flurry of corners but it was his midfield partner, David Davis, who launched Blues first meaningful attack. 

The combative Davis, who was in the thick of the action throughout, broke from a central area and powered deep into Villa territory. With three Blue shirts to aim for, he had to settle for a corner after seeing his cross charged down. 

Down the other end, Taylor slid a ball down the side of Emilio Nsue which Albert Adomah latched onto and after a neat exchange with Jack Grealish, his cross fell to Scott Hogan who couldn’t direct his header goal wards. 

With the game now opening up, Che Adams twisted and turned his way down the Blues right and earned Redknapp’s men a free kick 5-yards short of the corner flag. The cross was cleared to Maghoma but the Congolese international couldn’t engineer a shot on goal. 

There was little in the way of goalmouth action throughout the opening half but Blues were threatening on the break and looked assured in possession. 

Shotton and Hogan went stride-for-stride in a foot race and after the Blues stopper came out on top, he looked to launch another quick counter-attack. Davis picked out Grounds whose cross was cleared away from Kieftenbeld but it was a sign of things to come as moments later, Blues calved out the best chance of the half. 

Davis was again at the heart of the move and after nicking the ball in the centre-circle he motored down the Blues left. Jutkiewicz picked up possession and ,after holding off Nathan Baker inside the box, stood the ball up to the back post where Che Adams, 12-yards out and unmarked, volleyed agonisingly over the bar. 

Despite the lack of clear cut opportunities, Redknapp would have been the happier of the two managers at the break. 

The sides emerged after the interval unchanged and again it was the visitors who began the brighter. 

Shotton clipped a trademark diagonal pass to the foot of Maghoma and with two Villa defenders for company, he found Grounds free inside the box. The Blues defender managed to drive the ball across the penalty area but wayward of a blue shirt. 

Tempers were frayed on the hour mark when Alan Hutton was late arriving on David Davis. Referee Simon Hooper was quick on the scene to calm both sets of players before the incident escalated further.

The biggest cheer from the home crowd came when, moments after being introduced as a substitute, Gabriel Agbonlahor won a throw in off Che Adams with a full-bloodied challenge.

So often the pantomime villain, Agbonlahors presence seemed to lift the home crowd and cause panic amongst the Blues backline.

The game was starting to come to the boil, Shotton and Agbonlahor were both booked for an off the ball incident which eventually led to a chance for the hosts. 

Lansbury swung in a free-kick from left and with Chester, Robinson and Jutkiewicz all at full-tilt, it was the Villa captain who rose highest to power a header over. 

Next it was Blues chance to threaten. On the hour mark, a long ball into the Villa box wasn’t dealt with and after both sets of players momentarily lost sight of the ball, Davis tested Sam Johnstone with a snapshot across goal. 

Then came the pivotal moment of the match. 

With a quarter of the game left to play, Jacques Maghoma stuck out a leg to intercept a square pass just inside Blues territory, sending the ball out for Villa’s first corner of the game. 

Blues failed to deal with the initial set-play and after the ball ricochet around the six-yard box, Agbonlahor fired home from close range. 

Blues immediately looked to hit back, Maghoma delivered two inviting crosses in quick succession but both were cleared away from the incoming Jutkiewicz. 

Greg Stewart very nearly made an instant impact after he was thrown on five minutes from time. 

The Scotsman cut back onto his left foot and whipped a dangerous cross into the box which Davis glanced goal wards but Johnstone was on hand to punch clear. 

Blues, now in search of a much-needed equaliser and piling on the pressure, sent a long ball into box which was headed clear but only as far as Stewart who, again on the angle, lashed across goal and wide of the far post. 

Steve Bruce made a flurry of late substitutes to wined down the clock as the hosts held on for the victory despite an under-par performance. 

Attendance: 40,884

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