Grealish stars as Villa beat Burnley but VAR takes centre stage again
Aston Villa secured a much-needed 2-1 victory at Burnley, despite another controversial VAR decision denying Jack Grealish a goal.
The playmaker headed in Ezri Konza’s cross in the 11th minute in what appeared at first glance to be a straightforward opener, only for a lengthy review to rule it out for a marginal offside against Wesley in the build-up.
When Wesley did open the scoring not long afterwards, the away fans waited for the VAR check to be complete before they celebrated, leading the Villa striker to think his goal had been disallowed.
The impressive Grealish fired home a second shortly before half-time.
The finest margins!— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) January 1, 2020
Burnley pulled one back through Chris Wood’s header 10 minutes from time but were unable to find an equaliser and Villa celebrated a first league win at Turf Moor since 1936 to lift some pressure on manager Dean Smith.
Smith reacted to Villa’s 3-0 defeat by 10-man Watford at the weekend by making five changes and switching formation.
Tyrone Mings’ return from a hamstring injury was a boost and he formed part of a back three, while Neil Taylor, Frederic Guilbert, Marvelous Nakamba and Trezeguet also came in.
Burnley boss Sean Dyche was impressed by his side’s second-half display in defeat by Manchester United on Saturday and made only one change – Robbie Blake replacing Jeff Hendrick out wide.
These are the type of games Burnley have made a habit of winning during the past three-and-a-half seasons but they were lacklustre from the start, misplacing passes and giving Villa too much time and space.
It was the perfect environment for Villa to grow in confidence and they came close just prior to Grealish’s disallowed goal, with Wesley shooting narrowly wide.
Burnley had managed just two shots on target in their previous three games and showed few signs of improving that statistic. Dwight McNeil shot over the bar and Chris Wood headed wide but neither effort came close to troubling former Claret Tom Heaton on his first return to Turf Moor.
Another defensive mistake played in Grealish, who teed up Wesley for a shot that Nick Pope did well to save with his feet, and the Burnley keeper then got down sharply to keep out Douglas Luiz’s follow-up.
It was no surprise when the breakthrough arrived in the 27th minute, with Villa taking full advantage of more hesitant Burnley defending as Grealish clipped a ball in for Wesley to control on his chest and volley between the legs of Pope.
Grealish was the outstanding player on the pitch and he thumped in a fine second in the 41st minute, with no doubt this time that the goal would count.
Dyche showed his displeasure by making two changes for the second half – Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Jay Rodriguez replacing Brady and Ashley Barnes.
It had the desired effect, although Luiz should have made it three, shooting tamely at Pope having again been given far too much space by Burnley’s defence.
Burnley at least looked a dangerous attacking presence now and Rodriguez should have pulled one back from in front of goal in the 49th minute but could only nudge James Tarkowski’s cross wide.
Wood then volleyed wide with the outside of his boot and sliced another effort off target before Wesley’s afternoon ended on a stretcher following a firm but fair challenge from Ben Mee.
That was not the only black mark on Villa’s day, with Heaton also needing to be carried off after hurting his right knee in attempting to keep out Wood’s powerful header.
The popular keeper was applauded by all sides of the ground, but Burnley were unable to seriously test replacement Orjan Nyland despite nine minutes of added time.
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Get FourFourTwo Newsletter
The best features, fun and footballing quizzes, straight to your inbox every week.
FourFourTwo was launched in 1994 on the back of a World Cup that England hadn’t even qualified for. It was an act of madness… but it somehow worked out. Our mission is to offer our intelligent, international audience access to the game’s biggest names, insightful analysis... and a bit of a giggle. We unashamedly love this game and we hope that our coverage reflects that.