Aston Villa

MATCH REPORT: Aston Villa can’t hold onto lead in final friendly

Aston Villa lost their last friendly of pre-season 3-1 against Middlesbrough despite leading at half time.

This was the first time Aston Villa were able to return to Villa Park since they were relegated from the Premier League and the mood seems to have changed with fans hopeful of a quick return to the top-tier of English football.

And what they saw in the first half will have given them even more hope. They were able to keep a lively Viktor Fischer away from causing any real damage and pressure on Alvaro Negredo caused him to mess up a real chance on goal. And then they were able to take the lead when Middlesbrough were unable to clear a corner and Leandro Bacuna was able to whip in another cross which Nathan Baker was able to head in.

And after that opening goal, Villa pushed forward and came close to getting a second a couple of times. Alan Hutton put in a very dangerous cross after being let free on the right hand side and Victor Valdes had to be quick to gather it up before a striker in claret and blue could get to it. Then Jordan Ayew managed to beat everyone to a through ball before knocking the ball wide.

In the second half, things quietened down with Villa starting to think of their pre-season opener against Sheffield Wednesday next Sunday. However Middlesbrough were able to grab an equaliser when Fischer’s shot was saved by Pierluigi Gollini and Negredo was quickest to tap in.

This opened up the game for Middlesbrough who despite the odd threat from Villa, took over the game. Fischer, who continued to improve throughout the game, was there at the end of an impressive counter attack move to simply finish it off and give the Boro the lead.

And then very quickly, Middlesbrough doubled the lead and made sure they were getting the win. Almost as quickly as he came on as a substitute, Jordan Rhodes was able to pop in the box and head home, continuing his hot streak of goals this summer which indicate he may finally come good on that massive £8m fee paid for him back in January.

The second half was a huge disappointment for Villa but there was enough in the match to show the club should be challenging at the right end of the table this season.

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