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Media review: Aston Villa

Writers have their say after Albion are denied by Martinez' super show.

By Nick Szczepanik • 14 February 2021

By Paul Hazlewood
Neal Maupay goes close.

You know your team has played well when the opposing goalkeeper is unanimously hailed as the man of the match. And the only disagreement among the writers covering Albion’s goalless draw with Aston Villa was whether Argentinian keeper Emiliano Martinez had cost Villa £17 million or £20m.

Villa fan Matt Law, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, noted that “Emiliano Martinez this week compared Jack Grealish to Lionel Messi, but the goalkeeper will soon be earning hyperbolic comparisons of his own with performances like this.

“Martinez single-handedly secured a point for Villa with his 12th clean sheet of the season against a Brighton side who will be wondering how they did not take all three points.

“Brighton are now unbeaten in six Premier League games, but it should have been a second successive home victory.

“’It was frustrating but pleasing because the performance was very good and we did everything but score,’ said Potter. ‘We had shots, attacks and reduced Villa's attacking players. We are disappointed with just the one point.

01:44

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Burn's Villa reaction

‘Their goalkeeper made some really good saves and has been an important player for them, that is football but the overall performance we had enough shots and attacks at them to score, just not that last little luck you need.’”

“Other than praising Martinez, [Villa manager Dean] Smith, who saw Matt Cash forced off with a hamstring injury, was angry with Villa’s performance, saying: ‘Not even bang average, I have never seen us make so many unforced errors in a game, it was sloppy from start to finish but we had the resilience to keep the ball out of the net. Brighton were the better team’.”

Kieran Gill of the Mail on Sunday joined in the praise for Martinez. “The super saves aside, the 28-year-old Argentinian deserves bonus points for wearing short sleeves on a night as cold as this,” he wrote.

“Brighton's players lined up to have a go and one by one, they saw their shots saved by the magnificent Martinez. As a result, Villa have now beaten their points total from last season.

“Asked whether that was a good point afterwards, Martinez said: 'Nah, not really. We came here to win, a chance to be in the top seven. But credit to them. They played well. They deserved to win. We're looking to Europe. That's why I'm frustrated.'

“Brighton left frustrated, naturally. They unleashed 26 shots and, on another night, Graham Potter’s players would be heading to their homes with three points to show for their frozen toes. Not this time. Not with Martinez in goal. We did everything but in the key stat we were level,’ Potter said.

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Veltman on Villa stalemate

“Failing to convert chances does not help, and they were guilty of that inside the opening 10 minutes. Brighton should have led after a delicious cross by Joel Veltman found the head of Alexis Mac Allister, but the Argentinian could not keep it below the crossbar.

“It was only because of Martinez that [Villa] weren’t losing here and on the hour mark we saw another magnificent save. This time Veltman had unleashed a vicious effort which was flying into the back of the Villa net, until the visitors’ goalkeeper pushed it wide. Close, but still no cigar.

“Danny Welbeck was introduced for the final stages and he saw a near-post shot saved by Martinez, before Trossard was denied too. Brighton left disappointed, though only Manchester City are on a longer unbeaten run in the Premier League than them.

“That’s a record to be proud of. It was just unfortunate for them that they met Martinez in one of those moods.”

As well as praising Martinez, Tom Barclay of the Sun on Sunday pinpointed Joel Veltman’s stifling of Jack Grealish as a key factor in the match. “Martinez was the main reason the visitors did not fall behind in a first half Brighton dominated.

“Graham Potter’s improving Albion fluffed other decent chances too, with Alexis Mac Allister heading over early on from a pinpoint Joel Veltman cross.

By Paul Hazlewood
Lewis Dunk tussles with Ollie Watkins

“Veltman, filling in impressively again for the injured Tariq Lamptey, also drew a solid stop from Martinez with a low drive.

“As for Grealish, he did not get anywhere close in the first period to living up to Martinez’s lofty comparison - and against his favourite opposition.

“The playmaker had scored four goals against Brighton throughout his career, including a late stunner in last term’s 1-1 draw at the Amex.

“He had not managed more against any other side but on Saturday, the most he got for his troubles were a few kicks and a yellow card for a cynical tug-back on Veltman.

“Smith even ordered his talisman to switch wings with Bertrand Traore at one point, but Grealish fared no better.

“Brighton’s tails were up after a fine run of five Premier League games without defeat, including wins over Leeds, Tottenham and Liverpool.

“Sub Danny Welbeck could have nicked it with his first touch but could not beat Martinez, whose actions spoke louder than his words.”

Tom’s News UK stablemate Paul Rowan also noted Grealish’s peripheral role in the Sunday Times.

“The Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez added to his extensive collection of clean sheets this season — now numbering a dozen — producing a series of excellent saves against a free-flowing Brighton & Hove Albion side who created plenty of chances but again lacked a killer touch,” he wrote.

“Villa drew a blank with Ollie Watkins isolated. Grealish, who was booked for pulling back his nemesis, Joel Veltman, vented his frustrations to the referee Darren England at half-time, but it was not the officials who were the problem for a flat Villa side.

“For all their pleasing patterns, Brighton have been averaging only a goal a game this season at home and while they continued to dominate in the early stages of the second half they still could not make the breakthrough.

“Substitute Danny Welbeck would surely have scored had he made better contact from a cross from the right in the 84th minute, but his touch was weak and Martínez was able to make another save.”

By Paul Hazlewood
Neal Maupay tests the Villa defence at the Amex last Saturday

In The Observer, Ed Aarons wrote that “A virtuoso performance from Emiliano Martínez meant Brighton’s unwanted statistic will continue for a little longer at least. Despite being one of the division’s most improved teams over the past few weeks, their three most recent Premier League home wins have all come in different years.

“It is surely only a matter of time until that is put to bed if they can keep playing like this, however, with Martínez producing a string of brilliant saves to earn Dean Smith’s side a point which moves them to within striking distance of the top four, even if they never really looked like scoring themselves.

“Brighton’s unlucky FA Cup defeat to Leicester in midweek was their first since a narrow loss to Manchester City a month ago – a run of six matches. Since then, Graham Potter’s side have shown vast improvement to move well clear of any danger thanks to wins against Liverpool and Tottenham, even if goals have still been hard to come by.

“It took until almost the 20th minute for Villa to mount a serious attack as Ross Barkley set up Luiz, only for the Brazilian to curl his shot well wide. A crunching challenge from Veltman that left Jack Grealish writhing in agony was an indication of the close attention being paid to the playmaker, who was forced to drop deeper as the half wore on and he attempted to exert an influence.

“’It’s frustrating but pleasing because the performance was one of our best and we did everything but score,’ was Potter’s fair assessment. ‘Their goalkeeper was outstanding’.”