Dean Smith praises Aston Villa response at Burnley
Dean Smith was baffled by another controversial VAR decision but praised his Aston Villa players for responding to criticism with a valuable victory at Burnley.
Four days after losing 3-0 to 10-man Watford, Villa held on for a 2-1 victory – their first in the league at Turf Moor since 1936.
Wesley and Jack Grealish scored the goals in the first half after the latter had what appeared a straightforward opener ruled out for a marginal offside in the build-up.
The Villa fans did not celebrate Wesley’s volley until the ball was on the centre spot, and the striker’s first reaction was frustration as he mistakenly believed that, too, had been chalked off.
Speaking to the BBC, Grealish said: “I knew it was going to be disallowed when you see some of the decisions over the past two weeks. When you score, you have the feeling it will be disallowed. When it was I really wanted to score again and thankfully I did.
“I’m 50-50 on VAR. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. If you’re offside, you’re offside.”
Smith added: “I have seen the still picture and it baffles me a little bit. It is what it is I suppose.”
Burnley dominated the second half but did not find the breakthrough until Chris Wood’s 80th-minute header and Villa survived nine minutes of added time.
Villa held a team meeting after the Watford defeat and Smith was delighted with the response, saying: “We spoke a lot about the Watford performance and that we can’t see that again.
“We haven’t been great on the road this season, our points tally is there for all to see, so we knew we had to come here today and be prepared to roll our sleeves up. I could see the look in the lads’ eyes today that they were ready and first half especially I thought we were excellent.”
The return from injury of Tyrone Mings was a big plus and he played as one of three centre-backs.
“We changed the system, only had a couple of days to work on it as well but the three centre-halves have all played in that system before,” added Smith.
“I just felt it would help us here and, with Tyrone coming back, it gave us the opportunity to do that and I thought it made us look more solid.”
Smith admitted the gloss was taken off the result by potentially-serious injuries to Wesley and former Clarets keeper Tom Heaton, both of whom had to be carried off.
Smith said: “Both of them felt their knee. We’re not sure of the prognosis as of yet, obviously. But we’ll let them go and have a scan and see from there. They’re two big players for the football club.”
It was a third defeat in a row for Burnley, who are now only three points above Villa and being sucked towards the relegation zone.
Manager Sean Dyche sent on Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Jay Rodriguez for the second half and was pleased with the improvement but made no attempt to disguise his unhappiness with the first 45 minutes.
Dyche said: “We were a long way short in the first half, which was a head-scratcher for me after such a strong performance second half against Manchester United.
“We were way short in and out of possession, the detail, the bravery to play, the framework of the side, and we got punished. Fair play to them, they took their chances well when they got them.
“Obviously a big reaction at half-time but you can’t wait in the Premier League and it looked like we were waiting for the game to come our way.”