Aston Villa showed their Premier League class by inflicting a 6-1 defeat on Crewe in the Second Round of the Carabao Cup. Dean Smith’s Villa side demonstrated their clinical edge by punishing Crewe for the slightest mistake and their football was a joy to watch – but so was Crewe Alexandra’s at times.
We had a our spells in the game that probably deserved more than the one we actually scored at 5-0 down through midfielder Ryan Wintle. He took his second goal of the campaign really well drifting past three players and then shooting across Jed Steer and into the bottom corner of the net. It was a mere consolation but a goal we throughly deserved.
The likes of the excellent Owen Dale, Chris Porter, Charlie Kirk and new loan signing Chuma Anene all had decent chances. Dale and Anene flashed good chances wide and Porter’s accurate half side volley was pushed over by Steer as Crewe enjoyed their best spell of the first half.
Crewe also had a goal chalked off for offside on 18 minutes when Eddie Nolan’s header from a corner was going in but Dale made the final touch close in. It was shame that he had strayed into an offside position because after 20 minutes we would have been level. Dale wanted to make absolutely sure of it going in and our joy was short-lived.
Aston Villa were empathic with their finishing. They led 2-0 inside 24 minutes thanks to an early goal from defender Ezri Konsa from a corner and Eire International Conor Hourihane. Hourihane headed home at the far post from a superb cross fom Anwar El Ghazi on the stroke of half-time to kill it stone dead as a competitive tie.
Aston Villa continued in their search of goals and they duly arrived once the club captain Jack Grealish was introduced as a second half substitute. His first contribution saw him run James Jones down the right wing and his low cross was tucked home by a grateful Keian Davis.
Crewe were caught out at a short corner, and an unmarked Frederic Guilbery curled it superbly beyond Richards and into the far corner. Grealish helped himself to the final goal drilling forcefully home after Olly Lancashire failed to clear the initial danger for 6-1.
David Artell handed 18-year-old full-back Rio Adebisi his senior debut for the visit of the Villans. Goalkeeper David Richards, Callum Ainley and Owen Dale were all rewarded for their performances against Middlesbrough in the first round with the boss naming them in the starting XI for the visit of the newly promoted Premier League side.
Aston Villa settled into their stride in South Cheshire and with Crewe again slow to start, they duly took the lead in only the fourth minute. Crewe felt there should have been a foul given in the build-up to the corner that was given. The powerful Keinan Davis certainly pulled a shirt but the referee didn’t award it and after a short corner, Crewe failed to clear the danger at the far post. Debutant Rio Adebisi threw himself in front of a shot but the ball was kept alive and Ezri Konsa nodded home from close range. It was far too easy and Crewe’s third slow start of the season had proved costly again.
Villa were demonstrating their class in those early exchanges and a clever interchange of passing between Matt Targett and Hourihane saw them play in behind Olly Lancashire but we managed to escape conceding an early second goal. With the Premier League side on the front foot, Dale did exceeding well to block a fierce drive from Targett.
Crewe rode that early storm of pressure and really settled into it. Inspired by a confident Dale, the winger rose the temperature inside the Alexandra Stadium with some really positive play. He twisted and turned Kortney Hause inside out and found Ng and his deeper cross was met by Porter but Jed Steer was equal to it.
Adbisi was assured in possession and won most his personal battles with the excellent Jota. It was a terrific debut against top quality opposition and he hit some early crosses that Steer had to come and collect.
From a corner, Porter peeled off at the far post and was unlucky to see his controlled half volley push over by Steer. It was one he should have saved. From the corner from the left, Nolan met Lowery’s cross superbly well and his header looked to have beaten Steer but Dale from an offside position made a final contact with his head and the goal was rightly ruled out. It would have stood if Dale hadn’t had touched it.
More great play from the Railwaymen saw Dale link up well with Ng and it was passed on to Wintle. It was quickly turned into the path of Kirk and he forced Steer into another push over. It was much better from the Railwaymen but then we committed a defensive error trying to play offside and were punished again on 24 minutes. Jota hit a lifted ball over the top of Crewe’s high line and Henri Lansbury beat the offside trap and he rolled it across to Hourihane helped himself to a simple tap in for 2-0. Briefly, it killed the atmosphere but Crewe soon got themselves going again.
An Ainley cross found Porter but his header didn’t dip enough before Dale zipped another shot across the six yard box. Dale was getting a lot of joy up against Villa’s new full-back, Matty Targett and the England Under-21 International didn’t see the half out after appearing to pull his hamstring. He was replaced by Frenchman Frederic Guilbert.
At the other end, the powerful Davis got away from Nolan and smashed one over the top of Richards’ crossbar. The Alex goalkeeper doubled fisted a fierce shot form El Ghazi that swerved like hell from about 25 yards out.
Crewe needed to get to half time without conceding a third goal but in stoppage time, we gave El Ghazi far too room on the left wing and his excellent cross to the far post was headed home by Hourihane.
As expected, Crewe gave it a real go at the start of the second half. Artell handed Anene his first action since completing his loan and he the striker was a handful. Ng and Ainley had early half chances before Anene’s first contribution saw him intelligently flick one into Dale but again he drilled his shot inches wide of the far post. It was just not going in for the Alex.
More good approach play from skipper Ng saw him find Dale again but on this occasion he over hit his cross and it flew out the other side. Kirk also curled one into the gloves of Steer. Crewe were getting joy but couldn’t finish.
Richards got a let off after the hard working Lansbury chased down his clearance and it thankfully deflected behind for a goal kick.
Villa stepped it a gear again and El Ghazi hit the foot of the post with Richards beaten. Grealish replaced Jota and he would make an impact. It was great to see the Villa captain grace Gresty Road. He roamed around and caused mayhem.
Crewe made a couple of changes too with Finney and Jones replacing Lowery and Kirk – to give them a rest more than anything with the tie over.
Grealish was soon involved, putting the afterburners on to drift past Jones and after reaching the by-line he pulled it back for youngster Davis to help himself to a goal. Substitute Guilbert got himself on the score sheet with a sublime curler into the far post but it was far too simple. Villa were absolutely clinical.
Crewe’s new loan signing Anene had a great chance to mark his debut with a goal after Adebisi had pinched possession back from El Ghazi and he was sent through on goal but from a tight angle he shot just wide.
Ryan Wintle finally scored the goal we deserved on the night. Crewe kept possession well with Ng and Jones involved in the build-up play and Wintle picked the ball up some 25 yards from goal and headed for goal. He drifted past three Villa players, nut megging the last before firing into the bottom corner for his second goal of the season. It was no more than Crewe deserved for their sterling efforts on the night.
Grealish had the final word though when Crewe failed to clear the initial danger and he drilled home from close range right in front of his adoring fans. It made it a perfect night for the Villa faithful but there were actually some real positives for Crewe too, especially the performances of youngsters' Dale and Adebisi.