Ipswich Town 1 Aston Villa 1
Chalobah (36) Kodjia (21)
(Ipswich – Edun red card – 39)
Paul Hurst’s Ipswich earned a point at home to promotion contenders Aston Villa despite having to play the second half with 10 men. There were goals apiece for Jonathan Kodjia (Villa) and Trevoh Chalobah (Ipswich) before midfielder Tayo Edun received a second yellow somewhat harshly. On both occasions the youngster won the ball against Tuanzebe and Elmohamady respectively. Despite second half pressure as Villa had more of the ball, the away side couldn’t take any of the chances created. Ipswich created chances of their own with most openings working their way through Jon Nolan and Gwion Williams.
Ipswich: Bialkowski, Donacien, Nsiala, Chambers (c), Knudsen, Chalobah, Edwards, Skuse, Nolan (Kenlock 84), Edun, Harrison (Jackson 73).
Unused: Gerken, Spence, Ward, Sears, Downes
Aston Villa: Nyland, Tuanzebe (Green 63), Chester (c), Jedinak, Hutton, Elmohamady, Bjarnason (Hourihane 63), McGinn, Adomah (Hepburn-Murphy 78) Grealish, Kodjia
Unused: Moreira, Taylor, Whelan, Elphick
Ipswich made three changes from the defeat away to Exeter in the EFL Cup. Grant Ward, Freddie Sears and Kayden Jackson dropped to the bench and in came Gwion Williams, Cole Skuse, and Ellis Harrison. The game also saw both Jon Nolan and Toto Nsiala make their home debuts.
For Aston Villa, the line-up represented a much-changed side from that which won away to Yeovil in the League Cup. Only full-back Axel Tuanzebe and wideman Albert Adomah kept their places.
Paul Hurst’s Ipswich changed shape slightly from previous league outings. Dispensing with the 4-3-3 formation, he pushed Tayo Edun further forward on the left in support of Jon Nolan (centre) and right wideman Gwion Edwards (right). This saw Skuse and Chalobah act as a double pivot, with either one taking it in turns to venture forward.
Steve Bruce’s Aston Villa kept faith with their familiar 4-1-4-1 system. Icelander Birkir Bjarnason sat in front of the back four while wingers Albert Adomah and Ahmed Elmohamady ventured into the final third in support of lone striker Jonathan Kodjia. Midfielders Jack Grealish and John McGinn engineered play from deep, with Grealish given more of a free role in order to offer a quick passing option when Villa attacked.
Aston Villa’s team shape offered both Adomah and Elmohamady the chance to make diagonal inward runs towards the box, namely in tandem with full-backs Alan Hutton (left) and Axel Tuanzebe (right) pushing high and wide.
First half takeaway:
Ipswich’s gameplan was to use Jon Nolan in the space directly behind Ellis Harrison when in an attacking phase. Gwion Edwards and Tayo Edun added width and both got forward early on to launch crosses into the penalty area. Ipswich regularly made use of set-plays from deep to get centre-backs Luke Chambers and Toto Nsiala forward to force chances off the second balls. When this forward movement happened, Skuse and Chalobah would drop back to offer protection to Knudsen and Donacien.
Despite early Villa pressure, Ipswich created the first clear cut opportunity on 12 minutes as Edwards showed skill to go past both his markers before working the ball to Edun wide on the left. From Edun’s low drilled cross, Edwards (who had advanced into the penalty box) hit the bar with a left foot shot from the six-yard box, the ball arriving somewhat more quickly than he expected.
Villa continued to make early forays down the left to create an overload and to try to force mistakes from the Ipswich full-back. The claret and blue side shaded the first quarter of an hour and relied on Adomah to win the battle of pace against home right-back Donacien. When Adomah did, he held onto the ball allowing others the time to move forward and support the attack. As the game progressed, Adomah was increasingly getting further forward in support of Kodjia. When Villa did move the ball forward through the centre of the park, Ipswich’s Edwards quickly closed down the space and passing options around star-man Grealish.
It was from the other side of the pitch however that Villa took the lead. John McGinn turned Edun and crossed high into the box. The Ipswich captain Chambers was slow to make his jump with the ball going over his head. Striker Kodjia managed to get himself between both Chambers and his centre-back Nsiala to head into the corner of Bialkowski’s net.
The game’s first yellow went to Edun for upending Elmohamady, but the youngster did come away with the ball.
The Ipswich equaliser unsurprisingly came as Jon Nolan surged forward from deep, winning the ball before bringing it forward quickly. Despite the ball eventually being put out of play by Villa, a long throw from Knudsen seemed to be too close to the Villa goalkeeper Nyland. Despite this the Norwegian managed to drop it and it fell at Chalobah’s feet. He swivelled and fired it into the right-hand corner to make it 1-1.
Second half takeway:
With Edun receiving a second booking and a subsequent red six minutes before the interval (following a mistimed challenge on Tuanzebe), Paul Hurst shuffled his pack in the second half and asked Nolan to play wider on the left and Gwion Edwards to drift inside more to shore up any spaces. As the second half kicked-off, Ipswich adopted a 4-4-1 system.
Both teams continued to exploit the width of the pitch – something for which credit should go to Hurst for still encouraging his full-backs to get high up the field despite being a man down. As crosses arrived for Ellis Harrison, the Ipswich striker kept coming off second-best against the unit of Mile Jedinak, who constantly won the ball in the air. The one time that Harrison escaped him, his header from a Nolan corner made its way onto the roof of the Villa net.
It was noticeable during the second half that the West Midlanders offered something Ipswich didn’t. For in Jack Grealish, not only did Steve Bruce’s team have the game’s outstanding player, but also the option of gradually building play from deep, with a series of short and sharp passes. When Villa did decide to go wide, Grealish’s passing range utilised the pace of Elmohamady and Adomah.
Up until the sending off, Ipswich had attempted to use Jon Nolan’s dribbling ability to find pockets of space in between the Villa defence and midfield. With the reality of playing with ten men, Nolan was forced to drop back and take up more of a left sided role, but thanks to defensive cover provided by Skuse and Chalobah was still able to get forward often in attacking phases.
Villa started to make changes as they cranked up the pressure and brought on Irishman Conor Hourihane for Bjarnason. This saw Bruce’s team move another attacking player higher up the field and closer to the opposition goal. Villa’s midfield began to take up a diamond shape with McGinn playing the deepest of the four. Bruce also switched Axel Tuanzebe for Andre Green.
Most of Ipswich’s positive movements continued to stem from Nolan on the left. He broke quickly with the ball and sought to get into the opposition’s box as Ipswich advanced into the final third. Clear-cut chances were at a premium however.
Paul Hurst swapped Ellis Harrison for Kayden Jackson as the 10-man Tractor Boys began to tire. During the last 20 minutes, Aston Villa looked the more likely side to score, moving the ball along the ground in triangular passing positions and switching it out wide to try and get the run on the Ipswich full-backs. When Villa’s chances did arrive, Ipswich’s low block prevented shots troubling Bialkowski’s goal. Up top for Ipswich, Edwards and Jackson continued to offer the first line of the press.
In the last few minutes, both teams traded chances with Hourihane particularly getting forward and having a couple of shots from outside the box which were blocked.
Both teams scored from crosses into the box (one in the air, the other on the ground) while also creating the majority of chances through wide players. Paul Hurst’s decision to deploy both Skuse and Chalobah deep added vital protection to the defence – particularly as McGinn and Grealish increasingly took up advanced roles – but it also meant there was a significant gap in the middle of the pitch with the distance to Nolan considerable once Ipswich had 10 men. Despite this space, Villa surprisingly opted to go wide when attacking, and missed a key opportunity to establish control of the game. When they didn’t, Grealish offered the best option for controlled play from central positions, and Ipswich didn’t quite know whether to man-mark him or not. In the end, a lack of incisiveness, clear opportunities, and good defending from both sides meant a point apiece was fair.