Battling Millers slip to defeat.....
ROTHERHAM United were not duly rewarded for a battling performance at Villa Park as goals either side of the interval from Tammy Abraham and Yannick Bolaise saw Steve Bruce’s side earn victory.
The result leaves the Millers still searching for their first away points of the season but they gave the home side a scare or two, after sub Jon Taylor headed into the side netting before skipper Richard Wood nodded wide – with the game still in the balance.
Following their eye-catching home victory over Derby County at the weekend, Millers chief Paul Warne kept faith with his starting line-up and bench for the visit to England’s second city.
The hosts were quick out the blocks and they had the first sight of goal in the early seconds when Jonathan Kodjia sneaked around the back to fire a cross-cum-shot which had Marek Rodak at full stretch before the loose ball fell invitingly for Conor Hourihane, who drilled a low effort which was blocked en-route to goal by a retreating Millers defender.
The Slovakian was in the thick of the early action and Jack Grealish’s slide-rule ball paved the way for John McGinn to drill a cross to the near post which Kodjia looked to turn home from close range, but the Millers stopper showed quick reflexes to keep the ball out before McGinn fired wide, in the next home attack.
In the Millers first foray of note, Villa failed to clear their lines and Ryan Williams tried his luck from distance but he could not control his effort, as it blazed harmlessly over before Hourihane curled a dangerous free-kick into the danger area which narrowly evaded home runners, as it whistled across the face of the Rotherham goal.
Minutes later, Richie Towell and Kyle Vassell combined to great effect with a one-two to present the Irishman with the chance to strike a low effort from long range which had Orjan Nyland scrambling across goal, as it shaved the home upright before Vassell latched onto Michael Smith’s flick-on to fire an opportunistic effort from distance which flew into the home fans behind the goal.
The home side turned defence into attack in the blink of an eye and Anwar El Ghazi worked a yard of space on Joe Mattock to clip a centre which had Rodak nervously looking over his shoulder, as it hit the top of the Rotherham net before Grealish showed fleet of foot to dig out a cross which was met by the head of Kodjia, who failed to make a clean connection, as his arched header looped harmlessly over.
Minutes later, Kodjia won a physical duel with Ajayi to give Grealish the chance to drill a low centre which was inches away from the on-rushing Tammy Abraham, who looked well poised for a tap in before Williams got the better of Alan Hutton and John McGinn to ghost into the Villa box before sliding an inviting centre which gave Smith the opportunity to strike but home skipper James Chester put his body on the line to block his goalbound effort.
Minutes later, Villa failed to clear the danger and Towell fired a daisycutter from distance which was smothered by Nyland before El Ghazi’s cross had Rodak punching at thin air under pressure from Abraham, at the other end.
However, the Millers failed to heed the warning as Villa broke the deadlock, just before the half-hour, when Grealish injected pace into a home move and Kodjia turned smartly before playing a perfectly-weighted ball which bisected a static Rotherham defence and Abraham broke the offside trap before keeping his nerve to slide the ball past the attentions of Rodak and find the bottom corner of the visitors net.
Minutes later, El Ghazi became the first to see yellow for a clumsy foul on Towell near the touchline before Nyland had to take evasive action to control McGinn’s attempted clearance under pressure from Vassell
With half-time approaching, El Ghazi was fouled on the edge of the box and Hourihane almost exacted retribution from the resultant free-kick with a curling left-footed effort which flew inches wide of the far post.
In the late noteworthy action of the half, Vassell clipped a cross which hung invitingly for Smith, who nodded goalwards but his effort lacked power as Nyland comfortably plucked the ball out of the sky.
Half-time- Aston Villa 1 Rotherham United 0
The Millers settled the better of the two sides in the second half and Mile Jedinak was forced to head behind from Will Vaulks’ long throw before Vassell controlled an awkward ball before taking aim from distance but Nyland was his equal with a smart save.
Just before the hour mark, Mattock was penalised for hauling over El Ghazi and Hourihane curled an inviting free-kick into the Rotherham box but a backtracking Chester was unable to control his header and the chance was lost.
Minutes later, McGinn clipped a ball into the box and Chester emerged from the ruck of bodies in the box to glance a header which failed to trouble Rodak before Ajayi became the next to see yellow for felling Grealish in full flow.
The Millers squandered an opportunity for a quick counter attack when Ryan Manning’s pass went astray before Hourihane stung the palms of Rodak, with a long range effort which the visiting ‘keeper was forced to parry over.
Minutes later, Abraham was cautioned for cynically bringing down Smith before Wood headed over from Vaulks’ resultant free-kick.
The Millers came within a whisker of the equaliser when Vaulks fizzed a dangerous centre which was inches away from the head of sub Jamie Proctor before the ball fell invitingly into the path of the on-rushing Taylor, at the far post, but the flying winger could only head into the side netting, from an acute angle.
The visitors were almost made to pay for the miss, almost immediately, when Abraham found himself one-on-one with Ajayi but the Nigerian international stood up tall to block his shot before Grealish curled an effort harmlessly over – with Mattock booked for a foul, in the build-up to the move.
The Millers were giving as good as they were getting and they threatened the home goal once again when Vaulks’ fizzed a cross which saw Wood nip in front of his marker to glance a header which skimmed off the Villa Park surface towards the far corner of the goal but unfortunately for the Millers, the ball shaved the outside of the upright.
With the game in the balance, Jedinak nodded narrowly wide from sub Yannick Bolasie’s tantalising centre before Towell volleyed over from an inviting position, at the other end, after Villa failed to clear the danger.
However, Villa sealed the deal with nine minutes remaining when Ahmed Elmohamady dug out a cross and Bolasie ghosted into the danger area to meet the Egyptian’s centre with a superb diving header which flew into the heart of the Rotherham goal giving Rodak no chance.
The home side almost added a third late on when McGinn’s skimming drive stung the palms of Rodak.
Full-time- Aston Villa 2 Rotherham United 0
Aston Villa 2
Rotherham United 0
Teams:- Aston Villa- Nyland, Chester, McGinn, Grealish, Hourihane, Jedinak, Abraham (Bree 86), Hutton, El Ghazi (Bolasie 73), Kodjia (Adomah 81), Elmohamady. Unused- Bunn, Tuanzebe, Whelan, Bjarnason.
Rotherham- Rodak, Vyner, Mattock, Vaulks, Ajayi, Wood, Towell, Manning (Proctor 68), Vassell (Taylor 58), Williams (Forde 76), Smith. Unused- Price, Palmer, Wiles, Jones.
Referee- A Davies