Express & Star

Pre-season: Walsall 0 Aston Villa 4 - Report

A bumper crowd of almost 9,500 saw Villa's top-flight quality shine through as they ran out 4-0 winners in an entertaining pre-season friendly at Walsall.

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Villa chief Steven Gerrard and Saddlers boss Michael Flynn both took the opportunity to look at plenty of players, with the visitors displaying a clinical edge at a sun-soaked Bescot.

The Premier League side opened the scoring in a matter of minutes as Leon Bailey rifled the ball into the net from close range, and they continued to impress in attack.

Cameron Archer got in on the act before the first half was over with a lovely chip.

Joe Riley

Villa would introduce a completely fresh outfield line-up for the second period and two of their big hitters made it a straightforward success, with Ollie Watkins slotting home and Douglas Luiz netting straight from a corner.

The Saddlers, while soundly beaten, will take positives from the encounter as new signings Liam Bennett and Joe Riley caught the eye while a few trialists got minutes.

Walsall gave starts to several fresh faces, with Owen Evans, Brandon Comley, Douglas James-Taylor, Taylor Allen, Isaac Hutchinson, Riley and Bennett all in the XI.

The Saddlers also had two trialists in from the off in ex-Fulham striker Timmy Abraham and former Bradford City centre-half Ben Richards-Everton.

Villa had marquee new defender Diego Carlos making his first appearance in claret and blue alongside skipper Tyrone Mings.

Their line-up contained a mixture of youth and experience – Marvelous Nakamba, Bertrand Traore and Anwar El Ghazi some of the more established stars.

Joe Riley

Walsall's new owners, the Trivela Group were in attendance while Villa chief executive Christian Purslow and sporting director Johan Lange were seen chatting with Gerrard on the pitch pre-match.

The game started at a good tempo, and the Premier League men quickly made their mark.

Just seven minutes were on the clock when Bailey confidently fired the visitors in front.

A floated cross from the right flank was flicked on by El Ghazi, and the unmarked Bailey cleverly adjusted his feet to smash the ball home on the half-volley.

Walsall, despite conceding that early goal, had some encouraging passages of play going forward.

Bennett and Riley looked particularly lively going down the right-hand side while Liam Kinsella did his best to break up play in midfield.

Hutchinson took aim from the edge of the box, with Carlos swiftly getting across to make the block. James-Taylor also saw an effort fly over the bar.

Villa's top-flight quality was apparent as silky pieces of skill from Bailey and Nakamba drew loud cheers from the sizeable travelling faithful.

Traore tried his luck from distance and saw his powerful attempt palmed away from danger by Saddlers shot-stopper Evans.

Both sides – having stopped for a drinks break midway through the first period – were keen to move the ball with pace and precision.

Liam Bennett

Walsall trialist Richards-Everton, a rangy centre-back, was caught off guard, though, as Villa doubled their advantage.

He had let the ball run through his legs, and the ruthless Archer made him pay.

The sharp centre-forward, who could potentially head out on loan again this season, burst towards the area before lifting a delicate chip over the onrushing Evans and into the bottom corner.

As the half drew to a close, a few young fans posed for photos with England and Roma star Tammy Abraham, who was watching younger brother Timmy from the stands.

The Saddlers made four changes for the beginning of the second period while Villa changed everybody apart from goalkeeper Viljami Sinisalo.

That overhaul did not upset the away side's rhythm as one of the 10 players introduced in Watkins soon got himself on the scoresheet.

Villa's top scorer from last season coolly beat the outstretched Adam Przybek to put the result beyond any doubt before the hour mark.

Isaac Hutchinson

Walsall continued to make substitutions as Peter Clarke, another trialist in former Newport County midfielder Aneurin Livermore and academy product Ronan Maher were introduced.

Their forays forward, however, had become few and far between as Villa's strength and freshness was clear to see.

Gerrard's charges got their fourth as Luiz netted directly from a corner.

Spotting Przybek off his line, the Brazilian sensed the opportunity and capitalised expertly as his curling, looping effort beat the scrambling glovesman.

The Saddlers introduced another couple of trialists late on in former Wrexham full-back Cameron Green and young forward Jonas Mukuna – leaving another one on the bench in Julian Gibson.

They could have grabbed a consolation but teenager Maher was just unable to sort his feet out from close range.

A comfortable victory for Villa ahead of their trip to Australia while Walsall's next stop is Leamington on Tuesday night.


Walsall (4-2-3-1): Evans (Przybek, 46); Bennett (Maher, 71), Daniels (Clarke, 63), Richards-Everton (Monthe, 46), Allen (Green, 78); Comley (White, 46), Kinsella (Livermore, 63); Riley, Hutchinson, James-Taylor (Williams, 46); Abraham (Mukuna, 78)

Not used: Perry, Gibson

Villa first half (4-2-3-1): Sinisalo; Kesler-Hayden, Diego Carlos, Mings, Revan; Azaz, Nakamba; Traore, El Ghazi, Bailey; Archer

Villa second half (4-3-1-2): Sinisalo; Young, Chambers, Feeney, Chrisene; Luiz, O'Reilly, Sanson; Buendia; Watkins, Ings

Goals: Bailey (7), Archer (38), Watkins (54), Luiz (70)

Attendance: 9,409 (4,027 Villa fans)

Referee: Tom Nield