Pre-season: Walsall 0 Aston Villa 4 - Report

Record signing Emi Buendia gave Villa supporters a taste of what to expect as he starred in their pre-season win at Walsall.

Jacob Ramsey.
Jacob Ramsey.

The playmaker, playing for the first time since joining from Norwich for an initial £33million fee, created both first-half goals for Ollie Watkins with elegant passes.

Youngsters Jaden Philogene-Bidace and Aaron Ramsey then scored in the second half as Villa gave their fans, who made up more than half the 6,562 crowd at the Bank’s, plenty to cheer about.

The Saddlers battled hard and might have taken the lead through Brendan Kiernan early on but the visitors’ Premier League pedigree eventually told.

The most significant pre-match news from Villa’s point of view concerned Dean Smith, the club confirming the head coach would be absent from the Banks’s due to self-isolating with his family.

Instead, assistant Craig Shakespeare took charge of the visitors, who named an almost entirely different starting XI for each half, with keeper Jed Steer the only man to feature in both.

So many players did Villa use and so relatively small the Banks’s Stadium dressing rooms, their 10 outfield players pencilled in to start the second half did not arrive until five minutes before the first period kicked off. By the time the second half began, meanwhile, those who had started the first were already on the bus back to Bodymoor Heath.

Walsall’s starting XI included Joss Labadie, the midfielder having missed Saturday’s pre-season opener with Crystal Palace, along with trialist Reise Allassani. There was still no sight of Conor Wilkinson or another of the Saddlers new additions, Jack Earing, in the squad.

The visitors almost took the lead inside the opening minute when Matty Cash, playing in front of supporters for the first time as a Villa player, strode forward and struck a drive which Jack Rose found too hot to handle, the ball spinning behind for a corner.

Cash was then involved at the other end, ensuring Emmanuel Osadebe’s cross did not reach former Coventry man Allassani far post target, before Villa had a fortunate escape after getting into a defensive muddle which ended with Kiernan robbing keeper Steer 25 yards from goal. Much to the visiting team’s relief, the winger rather hurried his effort, lifting the ball over the bar with the goal empty.

Rose then produced a trio of fine saves to keep the scores level. The first saw the keeper stick out a leg to send Jacob Ramsey’s finish wide after the midfielder had been played through on goal by Anwar El Ghazi. Moments later it was the latter who was denied, Rose saving at close range as the winger looked to convert Buendia’s cross, before a fierce drive from Watkins was also repelled.

Rose would eventually be beaten on 26 minutes. Buendia showed superb vision to pick out the run of Watkins, who rounded the Walsall keeper on the edge of the box, before rolling a finish which was hastened over the line by the lunging Manny Monthe.

Villa had chances to further extend the lead but Ramsey saw a shot from the edge of the box blocked behind, before Cash drilled over from 12 yards out.

The lead was eventually doubled 12 minutes before the break, Buendia once again picking out the run of Watkins, this time the striker sliding his finish beyond Rose and into the bottom corner.

Walsall made two changes themselves at the break and Rollin Menayese, who replaced Monthe, was quickly involved, blocking a shot from Philogene-Bidace after Keinan Davis had latched onto a ball over the top, Wesley also seeing an effort repelled.

Villa would not be denied a third, however, their three new forwards combining before Philogene-Bidace slotted a finish under keeper Carl Rushworth six minutes after the restart.

Just before the hour mark, Ramsey made it four, taking a touch on the edge of the box before drilling a shot inside the near post.

Davis came close to grabbing a fifth but was unable to reach Frederic Guilbert’s drive across the box.

Teams

Walsall: Rose, (Rushworth HT), White (Leak 63) Taylor (Willis 59), Monthe (Menayese HT), Ward (Mills 63), Labadie, Kinsella, Allassani (Trialist B 59), Osadebe (Foulkes 63), Kiernan (Coogan 76), Phillips.

Villa first half: Steer, Cash, Konsa, Revan, Young, Ramsey J, Nakamba, Buendia, Chukwuemeka, El Ghazi, Watkins.

Villa second half: Steer (Sinisalo 78), Guilbert, Bogarde, Hause, Chrisene, Ramsey A, Hourihane, McGinn, Davis, Wesley, Philogene-Bidace.

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