West Brom vs Aston Villa match report: Midlands derby ends in stalemate

West Browmich Albion 0 Aston Villa 0

Jon Culley
The Hawthorns
Saturday 23 January 2016 18:09
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There are goalless draws that set the pulse racing and there are games such as this, with much energy and intent but almost no quality, at least where it matters most on the field. Villa played some pretty football at times but managed only four shots on target. Albion, organised and efficient, fashioned not one.

Given that they did not trouble the Southampton goalkeeper last week either, manager Tony Pulis (pictured) ought to be worried, although you would not know it. Albion fans booed his side off, yet the man in charge was extraordinarily chipper.

“We couldn’t get things going at the other end but defensively we were superb and if you had told me at the start of the season that we would play Villa twice and not concede, I would have been doing cartwheels,” the Albion manager said. “I’ve been told their team cost £84 million, yet we are 15 points better off.”

It was one way of looking at it. Another is that a team with ambitions to finish in the top half of the table had not only toothless but was bossed by an opponent with little hope of being in the same division next season. It is just as well that Pulis’s back four was so solid and Villa’s attack barely more threatening than his.

Or perhaps that Villa do not have someone who can turn possession into results. Rémi Garde’s side continued to display the spirit that has been characteristic of their recent performances in the Premier League and stretched their unbeaten run in all competitions to five matches, their longest sequence without a defeat since December 2014.

Yet Garde was frustrated and disappointed. “Although any point away from home is a good one, in our position it is not enough. We needed more and we tried very hard, especially in the second half, but when you don’t score you don’t deserve to win.”

They tested Ben Foster a couple of times on the England goalkeeper’s return to Premier League action after 10 months out with injury but on neither occasion, from Jordan Ayew in the first half and Ashley Westwood in the second, was Foster required to do anything spectacular.

They might have had a penalty, when Jonas Olsson brought down Ayew, although even Garde was not convinced. The Frenchman will surely be pushing for a striker, with Rudy Gestede suffering a hamstring injury.

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