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Report: Bristol City 3-1 Aston Villa

A spectacular second-half turnaround saw Bristol City defeat Aston Villa for the first time in 37 years at Ashton Gate.

The hosts trailed as early as the fifth minute to Jack Grealish’s far-post volley, but struck twice in quick succession either side of the hour mark through Tammy Abraham and Joe Bryan to turn the game on its head.

Lee Tomlin’s late free kick – his first goal since returning to the club on a permanent deal – put the result beyond doubt against a Villa side who had threatened to increase their lead before the interval.

Lee Johnson made two changes to his side from City’s last league outing against Newcastle United seven days ago.

Mark Little, who came on for the injured Adam Matthews in that game, was back in the starting line-up along with Bryan, who returned from a hip/groin problem.

Johnson would have been hoping to see a fast start from his players but instead it was the visitors who edged in front inside five minutes.

After Jordan Ayew’s initial shot was blocked on the edge of the box, Leandro Bacuna stood the ball up to the back post where Grealish was waiting to dispatch an expertly-taken volley back across the stranded Richard O’Donnell from ten yards.

Villa’s early momentum briefly stalled when left-back Aly Cissokho was forced off with injury after just 17 minutes, before Ayew threatened to double the advantage when he somehow escaped Little and Aden Flint but his driven shot flashed a whisker past the far post.

Then Ayew ran at the City defence again, this time sliding the ball into Bacuna, whose low effort beat O’Donnell but not the sliding Flint, who blocked miraculously.

The hosts were enjoying some decent possession in the final third but struggling to penetrate a Villa backline containing three new signings recently promoted from the division.

City’s best moment of a difficult first period was provided by a positive burst from Luke Freeman on 38 minutes.

The midfielder skipped inside and surged towards the penalty area before seeing his placed shot pushed away by previously untested goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini.

The home support was growing increasingly frustrated by referee James Linington, who awarded the visitors a free kick shortly before the interval that Ross McComack dipped only inches wide.

But the City fans were boosted by the half-time unveiling of new signing Jamie Paterson, secured on a three-year deal from Nottingham Forest for an undisclosed fee, and saw their team come out with renewed vigour after the break.

Freeman fired an early warning shot wide of the target and Bobby Reid beat his man to force a corner, but what came next may have caught even Johnson by surprise as City turned the game on its head completely.

First Tomlin found his favourite pocket of space 20 yards from goal, fashioned a shooting opportunity for himself and sent a curling shot towards the bottom corner that Gallini could only parry straight to Abraham, who lapped up his fifth goal of the season before the end of the first month.

Villa were cursing the Chelsea loanee again only two minutes later, as the 18-year-old turned and spotted the run of Bryan, who found himself one on one with the keeper and gleefully slotted home on his right foot.

Suddenly Ashton Gate was bouncing and City could do no wrong.

Hordur Magnusson headed wide from a corner as the hosts set about putting the game to bed, but Villa have talented attacking players and were always likely to have their moments.

O’Donnell had to be alert, not once but twice, to keep his team in front – stooping low to keep out Grealish’s awkward bouncer before instinctively kicking away the loose ball with a crucial piece of improvisation as white shirts closed in.

But City remained the team in the ascendancy. When awarded a free kick 30 yards from goal and Magnusson prepared himself to strike, supporters joined in with a rendition of the Viking clap to encourage the Icelander.

As it was, the defender’s attempt cleared the crossbar. That did not stop the fans joining in again five minutes later – perhaps to the annoyance of Tomlin, who this time overruled Magnusson and duly beat Gollini from 25 yards to round off a superb second-half display from Johnson’s men, who won five of their seven August fixtures in all competitions.

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