Matt Targett emerged a surprise hero for Dean Smith as Aston Villa beat Wolverhampton Wanderers in the West Midlands derby on Saturday.
The ex-Southampton full-back had his work cut out keeping Nuno Espirito Santo’s talismanic forward Adama Traore quiet, but excelled at the task to force the Spaniard into switching flanks with Pedro Neto after the hour mark.
Wolves had a clear gameplan of working the ball to Traore in the opening stages yet rarely enjoyed much success, with his only true break resulting in a tame effort on Emiliano Martinez’s goal early in the second half.
Martinez was inspired between the sticks to produce an array of pivotal saves as the game edged toward a draw, but a late mistake from Nelson Semedo gifted the Villans a penalty which substitute Anwar El Ghazi buried.
The win moved Aston Villa up to eighth and above their West Midlands rivals, while holding two games in hand, despite claiming just one win in five Premier League fixtures before travelling to Molineux.
Looking for that special Aston Villa Gift? Take a look at the amazing Villa Fan Gift site for the latest reviews, shopping advice and links to the best products in the market. With new items are added daily, reviews are helpful and informative this should be your #1 destination. They have everything from the latest and classic Shirt as well as memorabilia, toys and gifts.
The 25-year-old’s performance was not perfect, having recorded just a 56% pass success rate and was cautioned in the closing stages, yet excelled with a joint-team high 61 touches and the third-most total passes by a Villans player, per WhoScored.
Targett completed just 19 of his 34 total pass, one of which being deemed a key ball, while delivering four attempted but unsuccessful crosses and attempting nine long passes, of which only three found teammates.
He also lost possession 20 times – only John McGinn (21) turned the ball over more often, per SofaScore – but stood out with his back to Martinez’s goal with five clearances, three interceptions, three successful tackles and blocked one shot.
Smith never saw Targett try his luck on Wolves’ goal or attempt a dribble, but would have left Molineux mightily impressed by the former England U19 international’s efforts in behind youngster Jacob Ramsey, who was making his first-ever Premier League start.