So, the first 90 mins are done and dusted with Aston Villa taking a slender lead back to Villa Park on Tuesday with a hard-fought 1-0 win.
As I expected, there wasn’t much between the two teams with Villa nicking a goal off a corner which Boro should’ve defended a lot better. The goal itself wasn’t particularly one player’s fault, Shotton was blocked off, Assombalonga didn’t follow his runner and Gibson didn’t read the danger to remain on the back post.
Boro I thought didn’t play badly but they did huff and puff a bit, the game somewhat reminded me of the Wolves game. For all the industry and hard work, there wasn’t much in the way of clear-cut chances until Fabio began causing a few problems down the right flank. The issue is also what to do with Adama and the severe man marking he will be encountered with again at Villa Park. As Elmohamady is a doubt do you try and move him to the left? Or even spring a tactical surprise and play him in a number 10 role, similar to what Grealish played exceptionally well at in the first leg.
There’s definitely going to need to be some improvements from some players who I didn’t think had particularly great games. I thought Friend was quite poor in general with his passing and positioning while I’d of liked to of seen Downing take on more shots rather than the simple sideways passes. Assombalonga was quite isolated for most of the game but it is frustrating to see someone with his frame being bullied so regularly by centre backs.
For the second leg, I would like to see Pulis take a bit of a chance and really have a go at Villa, perhaps a 4-3-3 with Adama, Assombalonga, and Bamford with Fabio coming into a fullback role, all providing a bit more threat in the final third. The problem is, especially is Ayala is injured, I can’t see Villa not scoring at least one goal.