Match: Aston Villa v Millwall
Date: Monday 22nd April 2019
Competition: Sky Bet Championship
Venue: Villa Park
Steer; Elmohamady, Jedinak, Mings, Taylor; McGinn, Whelan (Hourihane 60), Grealish; Adomah (Green 60), Kodjia (Davis 76), El Ghazi. Unused subs: Sarkic, Lansbury, Bjarnason, Elphick.
Story in brief
Villa wrote themselves into the record books with an incredible 10th consecutive league win to provide an Easter treat for the claret-and-blue faithful.
Jonathan Kodja, deputising for the injured Tammy Abraham, scored the only goal to clinch three more important Championship points, although Dean Smith’s side should really have won more comfortably.
For the second successive home game, they were frustrated by an outstanding goalkeeping display as Millwall’s David Martin produced a string of superb saves.
Mile Jedinak, Anwar El Ghazi and Kodjia had all been close to scoring before Villa went ahead, although Jed Steer needed to be alert to push away Jed Wallace’s swerving shot for a corner.
When the breakthrough arrived on the half-hour mark, it was a goal of classic simplicity, Kodjia converting at the near post following Jack Grealish’s fine pass and El Ghazi’s low cross from the left.
Kodjia almost doubled the lead in the 56th minute, cheekily skipping between two opponents in the penalty area before firing across the face of goal from a tight angle.
Sub Andre Green then sent a shot into the side netting before his cross set up Grealish for a shot which cannoned off the legs of Martin, who also did well to push out El Ghazi’s fierce drive.
But even those were nothing compared to the reflex save Martin made six minutes from the end, when he somehow managed to turn over a Green volley which had goal written all over it.
In the closing stages, El Ghazi was just off target following a rapid counter attack, while Green was denied again when his shot deflected off a defender for a corner.
Top class – 10 out of 10!
So now it’s official – Villa’s Class of 2019 boast the best winning league sequence in the club’s 145-year history after making it 10 out of 10 since the first weekend of March.
Dean Smith’s men had already equalled a record which had stood since 1910, and a vital victory over Millwall ensured that they went one better.
Villa have actually recorded 11 consecutive wins in the past, but that sequence was spread over two seasons – and included two FA Cup ties.
It happened 122 years ago - a five-match winning finish to the triumphant 1896/97 campaign was interspersed with a 3-0 semi-final win over Liverpool and a 3-2 triumph over Everton in the final.
And the team started the following season on a high note, winning the first four games.
No time like the present
Villa legends Cordon Cowans, Ken McNaught, Tony Morley and Gary Shaw were among those watching from the stands – and how they must wish they could be part of the current squad.
Quite apart from the stark contrast of the superb playing surface to the muddy pitches of their playing days, our League Championship and European Cup heroes rarely played in front of the huge crowds now flocking to Villa Park.
For the third consecutive match, all home areas of the stadium were packed to capacity – and the final home match against Norwich City is already a sell-out.
Just two games of the regular season to go – both against teams who are above us in the Championship table.
Next Sunday, Dean Smith and his players take on Leeds United at Elland Road, looking to avenge our defeat to the Yorkshire outfit just before Christmas.
And on the final day, Sunday 5th May, we host leaders Norwich City (12.30pm).