Villa shrugged off the midweek embarrassment at home to Orient with a sweeping first half performance that was enough to help carry them through a late assault from Hull City.
Villa got the home supporters behind them with a tremendous opening three minutes that saw Delph brush the bar after a great move.
Hull pushed Villa back for the next few minutes and you had to wonder if the visitors had found their feet and Villa would be conceding possession by the bucketful again.
It wasn’t to be. Villa’s back line has earned plaudits for its work this season so far, but the job was made easy for them from the forward players defending from the front. Villa midfielders closed down tremendously causing Hull to turn the ball over constantly; forcing it to hit aimless long balls that just went through to Guzan.
Villa nudged in front inside 15 minutes. Hutton closed his man down quickly, forcing a back pass that was loose falling to N’Zogbia, who in turn ran toward the D. He picked out Weimann, whose first time flick found AGBONLAHOR in space and the striker was allowed to turn by slack marking and his low shot found the bottom corner.
Hull seemed leggy from the midweek trip to Germany, but also the 3 central defenders was playing into Villa’s hands. Hull played some sort of zonal marking allowing Gabby to find pockets to work in and drop passes or headers back to his midfield. The midfielders outnumbered Hull because again those central defenders were playing off Gabby who was occupying all three, with the wingbacks trying to be midfielders, Villa had all the width in the world, especially down the left.
Gabby had a good shot turned away by McGregor. Westwood saw a super free kick slam the post. Finally, Villa doubled the lead. Again, great closing down by Villa as Delph dispossessed a Hull player found Gabby. Gabby saw Richardson raiding down the left side of the box and picked him out perfectly. Richardson coolly slotted inside to WEIMANN and he in turn confidently doubled his tally for the season. Minutes before the goal I was screaming at why Lambert had allowed and I quote “the best natural finisher at the club” to be taking corners.
Hull unsurprisingly went back to a four man defence in the second half. It was the captain, Curtis Davies that made way for Rosenoir, he had looked slow and had already picked up a booking after Delph had dribbled him out of his shorts.
The second half saw Villa desperate to finish Hull off knifing into it at every opportunity, Gabby chasing lost causes and winning corners. Senderos saw a header saved by McGregor.
Finally, Hull began to play and villa seemed to run out of steam. Players were still closing down, but a step slower allowing Hull to make quick short passes to venture down the field. Villa stood firm and the defence still kept denying City. Lambert began the first of 3 smart substitutions with Sanchez replacing N’Zogbia.
Villa tried to get control of midfield again, but found itself getting deeper and deeper finally allowing Hull to get back into the game. A centre played in and JELOVIC headed to goal and Cissokho turned the ball away from Guzan, but inside the post for 2-1.
Immediately Grealish replaced Richardson and he and Weimann switched sides. Villa still could not get out of its own box and looked increasingly nervy. Just like last time Grealish burst on to the scene at Stoke it took him a few minutes to get into the game, but his arrival took Villa’s defenders minds off the panic that was starting to set in. Grealish in a five or six minute spell got hold of the ball 4 times and was fouled each time, wasting over 2 valuable minutes of time and causing 3 players Jelovic, Elmohamady and Quinn to get booked and Rosenoir to get a stern lecture. The Villa players took exception to Jelovic’s challenge, in which he may have left his boot in, then again when Elmohamady appeared to slap the youngsters head.
In between all that Agbonlahor received a deserved standing ovation when he was replace by Bent. Bent’s first action was to get Villa’s first offside call of the game to end a decent looking attack. He found his feet though and helped Delph get through, but the newly called up England player should have fed Grealish instead of an off balance shot.
Livermore had seen a super dipping hit turned over by Guzan. Eventually Villa burned down the time to 90 with Guzan getting a card, but a strange 5 minutes was added. Two minutes into the injury time Westwood broke with Bent and found him with a perfectly weighted ball, but the striker put his perfect opportunity a foot wide of the post. Villa was almost immediately made to pay for the miss when Aleuka swiveled to hit a fierce shot that Guzan dealt with well.