It took 76 minutes on Saturday for Aston Villa to finally find the net after several hours of Premier League football without a goal, and Leandro Bacuna’s strike was soon followed by Libor Kozak’s finish six minutes from time as a resilient Cardiff City were seen off 2-0 at Villa Park.
There were relatively few clear goalscoring chances in the first half, which was a scrappy affair, but Villa were mostly on top throughout with their visitors seemingly willing to settle for a point, and bar one or two moments of apparent danger for Brad Guzan, the first home clean sheet since all the way back in December arrived in a fairly comfortable manner.
There was still tension in the stadium as the minutes passed by and Villa were still unable to end their goal drought, but thankfully for Paul Lambert, he appears to have uncovered a new free-kick specialist in Bacuna, something which has long been absent at the club, with James Milner the most recent player to look capable of making something happen directly from a dead-ball situation, scoring a few before he left in 2010.
Just as he did against Manchester City, leaving goalkeeper Joe Hart rooted to the spot, Bacuna did so again here with David Marshall only able to watch the ball sail past him as a great sense of relief spread among the Villa supporters.
A highly satisfactory afternoon was completed by Kozak, another of the summer signings. The Czech striker had come close to putting through his own net earlier in the game, but his header was enough to take Villa up to 11th in the Premier League, with a succession of winnable games to come after the international break.
For Lambert, one of the most pleasing aspects of the match was the maturity that was shown by his young team. Never did they try and force the game in the knowledge that it had been a long time since they have scored, and the younger members of the team were not fazed by any of the anxiety that may have been evident in some areas of the crowd.
It is yet another game this season which demonstrates how far the squad has come since the majority of them were assembled by Lambert last year. There were periods during 2012-13 where Villa’s mental strength was severely called into question, but matches such as this, and the win at Norwich City show that during their time working with Lambert, their mentality has improving significantly.
In defence, the Scot has overseen a transformation, with four clean sheets in the space of a month and-a-half rendering the dismal defensive record prior to that in 2013 as merely a thing of the past, as great progress continues to be made at the West Midlands club, with the Villans beginning to look up rather than down.
Villa are still lacking a creative player, which was one of the main reasons for their lean spell in front of goal, but in their current state, they can be a match for anyone in the Premier League, something which has been proven on more than one occasion already this season.
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