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Media round-up: Aston Villa

How the newspapers and websites reported Saturday's 2-0 defeat.

By Nick Szczepanik • 21 November 2021

By Paul Hazlewood
Adam Webster challenges Ollie Watkins

For the second successive weekend any narrative about Albion took second place in the Sunday papers to that of opponents under new management – a worrying omen, perhaps, for Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa ahead of next Saturday’s visit to the Amex.

Steven Gerrard, of course, was the new man on the touchline for Aston Villa’s late 2-0 victory over Albion, rather than watching from the stand as Eddie Howe had been in Newcastle United’s 1-1 draw at the Amex. And the reporters all focused on the former Liverpool captain and his demeanour in the technical area, as you would expect. But some also found space to give credit to the visitors’ performance.

In the Sunday Telegraph, John Percy pointed out that “Gerrard never lost here in 13 visits as a Liverpool player, and that record remains intact after a dramatic victory in his first match as a Premier League manager.

“Two goals in the final six minutes secured a memorable debut and ensured Gerrard became the first Villa manager since Gerard Houllier, in September 2010, to win his opening game at this level.

“Any victory over Brighton these days must be hard-earned and this was Graham Potter’s first defeat on the road this season, with his team punished for not making more of their possession.

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PL Highlights: Aston Villa 2 Albion 0

“Brighton did not deserve to lose, but nothing was going to damage Gerrard’s first experience of the technical area in English football. Early on he stood with his hands in his pockets, or arms folded, occasionally barking out an instruction or encouragement. After just five minutes, he hurled his chewing gum down the touchline, perhaps sensing this was going to be a difficult afternoon.

“Brighton were far more comfortable on the ball, gradually easing themselves into the game and dominating possession after Villa’s predictably strong start. Potter’s approach demands players to be fearless and intent on passing their way out of tight areas and Villa were having to put in a lot of work.

“After 59 minutes the first request came from the Holte End for Gerrard to ‘give us a wave’, with Brighton in the ascendancy.”

In the Mail on Sunday, Oliver Holt wrote that “there is much hard work for Gerrard to do. This will not be an easy job. That much was already evident against Brighton. Even if Graham Potter does not have Gerrard’s profile, he is one of the best managers in the Premier League and Brighton have, quietly, become one of the division’s most accomplished teams.

“As the Premier League exploded in a riot of goals all around it, this was an ordinary, cagey game, starved of clear chances and low on excitement. Gerrard, at least, was entranced by it. He stood on the edge of his technical area in his smart overcoat for the game’s entirety, hands mostly thrust into his pockets or folded in front of him, but occasionally bursting into animated instructions.

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Potter's Villa verdict

“The game became a war of attrition. Both sides enjoyed plenty of possession but both struggled to convert it into chances. When Villa gave the ball away late in the first half Gerrard hopped up and down on the touchline in exasperation and Emiliano Martinez was forced to make his first real save to beat away Leandro Trossard’s fierce drive. And then, six minutes from time, Villa got the breakthrough.”

In the Sunday Times, Ian Hawkey wrote that “Brighton moved through their gears. From time to time they opened up spaces that alarmed the Premier League’s debutant manager. The manner in which Marc Cucurella roamed, unpoliced, down the left, spearing in a low cross, demanded urgent coaching consultations.”

Ben Fisher wrote in The Observer that “Brighton did an impressive job of muting the atmosphere and Martínez saved well to deny Leandro Trossard.

“Villa showed patches of quality but were too often clumsy in possession. Brighton were anything but, a delicious cross by Marc Cucurella eluding Trossard at the end of a slick move that began 70 yards away with Shane Duffy, and in the two minutes of first-half stoppage time Tariq Lamptey saw an effort blocked by Martínez.”

But other writers were more downbeat about Graham Potter’s men. In the Sun on Sunday, John Curtis wrote that “Brighton dominated possession but lacked a cutting edge and surrendered their unbeaten away record.”

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Dunk: A tough one to take

And on the BBC website, Simon Stone noted that “amid the noise around Dean Smith's exit and Gerrard's appointment, it had almost been overlooked that Brighton's excellent start to the season has now given way to a run of seven games without a win in all competitions, their worst run in almost a year.

“Graham Potter's side retain the confidence to keep possession and maintain their patience as they look for openings, but they still find a killer touch elusive. After Villa's initial thrusts the Seagulls controlled long periods of the game, denying the hosts any time on the ball while they enjoyed plenty of it, albeit in areas of the field that were not of any particular danger.

“Lamptey is slowly returning to form after injury but despite the promptings of Adam Lallana and Yves Bissouma from midfield, once Villa broke the deadlock there was never any realistic hope of an equaliser.”