Ward-Prowse stars with the dead ball in win at Villa

By SFC Media time Sun 01 Nov Aston Villa v Saints
Photo by Matt Watson | James Ward-Prowse
Sun 01 Nov 12PM
Premier League
Aston Villa
3
Southampton
4
Mings [62'] Watkins [90+3'] Grealish [90+7']
goal
Vestergaard [20'] Ward-Prowse [33' 45'] Ings [58']
Cash (43')
yellow card
Ward-Prowse (12') Diallo (90+2')
Referee: Darren England | Venue: Villa Park | Attendance: 0

It was a birthday to savour for James Ward-Prowse, as the Southampton captain scored two sublime free-kicks in the first half to take the game away from Aston Villa at Villa Park.

Ward-Prowse, 26 today, terrorised the hosts from set-pieces as Saints went in 3-0 up at the interval.

After Ezri Konsa’s early own goal from a Ward-Prowse corner was ruled out for offside by VAR, the skipper delivered another beauty – this time from a wide free-kick – that was met with an almighty thump by the forehead of Jannik Vestergaard, who was scoring for the second time in three games.

Then Ward-Prowse struck twice from direct free-kicks; first from familiar territory, just left of centre 25 yards out, before he found the net from a closer, more central position, somehow generating sufficient dip to leave Emiliano Martínez helpless for the second time.

Saints extended the lead with another goal of the game contender, this time from Danny Ings, who let fly with a curler of his own – an absolute stunner into the top corner from the edge of the box.

The visitors were denied a clean sheet by Tyrone Mings’s close-range header just after the hour, while Alex McCarthy pulled off an impressive string of second-half saves to prevent the margin of victory being reduced further.

Ollie Watkins did convert a late penalty to cap an improved second period for the home team, before Grealish scored from the edge of the box, as Villa made the scoreline look entirely more respectable.

Perhaps of greater concern to Ralph Hasenhüttl will be the loss of Jan Bednarek, Ryan Bertrand and Ings, who all left the field injured, but the boss will hope the damage is not serious.

Hasenhüttl was not afraid to change a winning team, bringing Theo Walcott back into his starting line-up after the winger was ineligible as Saints ended the Premier League’s last remaining unbeaten record at the expense of parent club Everton last time out.

That meant former Birmingham man Nathan Redmond dropped to the bench on his return to his home city in Hasenhüttl’s only alteration.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 01: Jannik Vestergaard(L) of Southampton celebrates after opening the scoring during the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Southampton at Villa Park on November 01, 2020 in Birmingham, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images)
Jannik Vestergaard celebrates his bullet header to make the breakthrough

Saints were very quick out of the blocks and thought they had taken the lead inside the opening three minutes.

When Ings won a corner, birthday boy Ward-Prowse delivered, Ings flicked it on and Ché Adams got a touch that diverted the ball against Villa defender Konsa and into the net.

There seemed no obvious offside at first glance and no appeal from the hosts, but Adams was adjudged to have been leaning just beyond the last defender when Ings helped the ball on at the near post.

Then Ings fed Walcott to his left, whose first-time shot beat former Arsenal teammate Martínez but just clipped the crossbar on its way over.

This was the start of a team full of confidence, but back came Villa in a wide open first 10 minutes, as former Saint Matt Targett found Grealish with a cleverly-disguised square pass, but his attempted curler was deflected wide of the far post.

Just as Villa were beginning to assert themselves on the game, Saints struck first from another Ward-Prowse set-piece.

Targett caught Kyle Walker-Peters after the right-back had dug out a cross, leading to a free-kick to the side of the penalty area, which was dispatched in absolutely unstoppable fashion by the in-form Vestergaard, who powered Ward-Prowse’s delivery back across the rooted Martínez.

Saints suffered a scare straight from the restart when Vestergaard’s partner in crime Bednarek went down with a nasty head injury as he landed awkwardly under a high ball.

With the Pole off the pitch, the visitors were nearly caught out from an ensuing set-piece, as Walker-Peters made a crucial block from Bertrand Traoré’s low shot.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 01: James Ward-Prowse of Southampton scores his secoond free kick of the game during the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Southampton at Villa Park on November 01, 2020 in Birmingham, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images)
Ward-Prowse's perfect technique helped him score two memorable free-kicks

Hasenhüttl would’ve been reluctant to tamper with his backline, but Bednarek made a full recovery – at least temporarily – unlike Traoré, who was withdrawn in the first half-hour after taking a heavy tackle from Bertrand.

But it was a foul on Walcott by Douglas Luiz that had even greater repercussions for the hosts, as Ward-Prowse took aim 25 yards from goal.

Straightaway it felt like prime position for the dead-ball specialist, just left of centre, and Ward-Prowse did not disappoint, striking an inch-perfect free-kick over the wall that dipped and curled away from the stretching Martínez, who dived to his right but could not keep it out.

Twelve minutes later, as Saints continued to repel every Villa attack, Ward-Prowse was sizing up another free-kick after a cynical handball from Matthew Cash.

Saints were counter-attacking with purpose, and Adams showed tremendous vision to spot Walcott away to his left, turning to execute a fine switch of play that had Cash backpedalling and panicking sufficiently to stick out an arm to prevent the ball reaching its target.

Cue a yellow card for the defender and a free-kick just outside the box, dead centre. Surely too close for Ward-Prowse to get it up and down? 

A couple of his teammates fancied taking responsibility themselves, but the skipper pulled rank and produced arguably an even better strike than the first.

Again curling his shot away from Martínez, this time the keeper knew diving was fruitless, as Ward-Prowse somehow beat the wall and whipped the ball into the side-netting with remarkable precision. 

A master at work, Ward-Prowse has now overtaken Matt Le Tissier as Saints’ leading scorer from free-kicks in the Premier League, moving on to eight. The all-time record, held by David Beckham, is 15.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 01: Danny Ings(centre) of Southampton strikes to score his teams 4th goal during the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Southampton at Villa Park on November 01, 2020 in Birmingham, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images)
Danny Ings takes aim from the edge of the box to make it four

The only stain on an otherwise flawless first half was the aforementioned heavy landing for Bednarek in the first half. Clearly still suffering, the defender was replaced by Jack Stephens at half time.

Villa knew they had a mountain to climb and, to their credit, came out fighting. McCarthy had only really been tested by crosses in the first half, but the Saints stopper was forced into two quick-fire saves early in the second period, thwarting headers from Trézéguet and Grealish.

Having weathered the early storm, Saints began to flex their muscles again. Adams found Stuart Armstrong, who opened up his body and tried to place one into the bottom corner, but just steered his shot narrowly wide.

From the very next attack, Ings showed the Scot how it’s done, receiving his pass near the left corner of the penalty area, stepping inside to open up the angle and dispatching a quite brilliant finish into the top corner that just clipped the underside of the crossbar on its way in. Goal of the game? Ward-Prowse might have something to say about that.

With the game seemingly won, Hasenhüttl would have been eager to secure a fourth clean sheet in five games, but his team would be denied by Mings’s 62nd-minute consolation.

Saints actually dealt with the corner well, initially, but then gave the ball away on the edge of their own box and Villa took advantage, as Grealish’s tempting cross begged for a touch and Mings duly provided it to head home from six yards.

Not that Saints’ desire to defend their own goal was about to drop, as Vestergaard through himself in the way of Trézéguet’s driven shot that was destined to reduce the deficit further.

McCarthy then made two more saves from the Egyptian, the second an impressive tip over, before flying high to his left to repel another header from Mings.

Villa did end up winning the second half courtesy of Watkins’s stoppage-time penalty, conceded by substitute Ibrahima Diallo, before Grealish’s disguised shot crept inside the near post, but a more pressing concern for Hasenhüttl could be the late injury to Ings, who was replaced by Shane Long – hopefully no more than a precaution after a nasty fall.

Aston Villa

Head to Head Stats

Southampton
  • Possession (%)
    56
    comparison angle
    44
  • Shots
    19
    comparison angle
    9
  • Shots on target
    10
    comparison angle
    4
  • Corners
    11
    comparison angle
    1
  • Passes Complete
    276
    comparison angle
    216

Aston Villa

26
Emiliano Martínez (GK)
18
Matt Targett
4
Ezri Konsa Ngoyo
5
Tyrone Mings goal
2
Matthew Cash yellow card
replace Ahmed El Mohamady (67′)
6
Douglas Luiz
15
Bertrand Traoré
replace Trézéguet (29′)
10
Jack Grealish (C) goal
20
Ross Barkley
7
John McGinn
11
Ollie Watkins goal
27
Ahmed El Mohamady
14
Conor Hourihane
12
Jed Steer
22
Björn Engels
17
Trézéguet
19
Marvelous Nakamba
39
Keinan Davis

Southampton

1
Alex McCarthy (GK)
3
Ryan Bertrand
replace Ibrahima Diallo (79′) yellow card
35
Jan Bednarek
replace Jack Stephens (45′)
4
Jannik Vestergaard goal
2
Kyle Walker-Peters
8
James Ward-Prowse (C) yellow card goal goal
32
Theo Walcott
17
Stuart Armstrong
6
Oriol Romeu
10
Che Adams
9
Danny Ings goal
replace Shane Long (85′)
44
Fraser Forster
27
Ibrahima Diallo
7
Shane Long
12
Moussa Djenepo
5
Jack Stephens
40
Daniel N'Lundulu
11
Nathan Redmond
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