Bottom club Sheffield United survived for more than 30 minutes with 10 men to claim a rare win and dent Aston Villa’s European ambitions.
David McGoldrick gave his side a first-half lead from inside the six-yard area after being picked out by George Baldock following a lovely move that started inside the Blades’ half.
United defender Phil Jagielka was sent off after half-time for a foul on Anwar El Ghazi after referee Robert Jones viewed the incident on a pitchside monitor and changed the yellow card he had initially given him to a red.
Villa’s Ollie Watkins headed against the post shortly before Jagielka’s red card but the visitors were unable to take advantage of the 38-year-old former Everton player’s dismissal.
The result ended a four-match losing run for Chris Wilder’s spirited side who, despite victory, remain 12 points from safety in the Premier League with 11 matches to play.
Villa could have moved three points from a Champions League place with a win but were disappointing, especially when playing against 10 men.
Blades show appetite for fight
Despite his side’s seemingly hopeless position at the foot of the table, Wilder said before the game his players would not be waving the white flag between now and the end of a wretched season that has produced 21 league defeats.
His players responded to their manager’s words with a gutsy performance that was even more impressive given they lost their most experienced player in the 57th minute.
Jagielka sent El Ghazi crashing as he was about to race clear, although it required a check on the monitor before the yellow card was upgraded to red.
Former England centre-back Jagielka had earlier made a superb block to deny Bertrand Traore an equaliser as the Blades defended with the kind of vigour and organisation which characterised their fine 2019-20 season
They remained resolute in the closing stages when Villa were desperately searching for an equaliser, Oliver Norwood throwing himself at Ezri Konsa’s shot during a frantic finish.
Eight months after finishing ninth in the table with 19 more points than Villa, despite this result it will require an extraordinary set of circumstances for Sheffield United to stay up.
At least they showed an appetite for a fight in spite of their position as Villa joined Manchester United, Newcastle United and West Bromwich Albion as the sides to lose to the Blades, who have now won three of their six home league games in 2021, this season.
A performance to forget
Villa’s transformation since surviving relegation on the final day of last season has been startling – but this was a performance to forget from a team that has been turning heads this campaign.
They started the season with four straight wins and although they have thrown in some surprise defeats – this loss coming four days after winning at Leeds – it has been a positive campaign for Dean Smith’s side.
They struggled to impose themselves in front of goal at Bramall Lane, although Watkins was unfortunate with his header that struck the woodwork, while Traore went close after showing great foot work inside the penalty area.
Keeper Emiliano Martinez has impressed all season but there was little he could do to keep out McGoldrick from close range after the defence was undone by Baldock’s pass.
Villa have been excellent on the road this season, with victories at Leicester, Arsenal and Wolves among seven they have managed away from Villa Park.
But Smith will not want to dwell on this performance – particularly as his side face a tough run-in that includes home matches against Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea as well as Liverpool away.
Second oldest red card – the stats
- Phil Jagielka, at 38 years and 198 days, is the second-oldest player to be sent off in the Premier League, behind only Stuart Pearce in March 2001 for West Ham against Everton, at the age of 38 years and 341 days.
- Aston Villa boss Dean Smith has only beaten Chris Wilder once in their seven meetings in all competitions.
- For the first time in the Premier League, Sheffield United managed to win a match in which they received a red card – although Jagielka’s red was the first time they had been reduced to 10 men while already winning.
- David McGoldrick (6) has scored twice the number of Premier League goals of any other Sheffield United player this season.
Both teams are at home on Saturday with Southampton visiting Sheffield United (15:00 GMT) before Aston Villa host a West Midlands derby with Wolves (17:30).
- 15JagielkaBooked at 57mins
- 17McGoldrickBooked at 45minsSubstituted forOsbornat 73’minutes
- 24BrewsterSubstituted forBurkeat 60’minutesSubstituted forMcBurnieat 89’minutes
- 27El Mohamady
- 19NakambaSubstituted forBarkleyat 68’minutes
- 41RamseySubstituted forSansonat 68’minutes
- 15TraoréSubstituted forDavisat 81’minutes
- 21El Ghazi
- 6Douglas Luiz
- Robert Jones
Match ends, Sheffield United 1, Aston Villa 0.