First-half fireworks but brave, brave failure ... Rotherham United 1 Aston Villa 2

First-half fireworks but brave, brave failure ... Rotherham United 1 Aston Villa 2

By Paul Davis | 10/04/2019

First-half fireworks but brave, brave failure ... Rotherham United 1 Aston Villa 2
Frustration for the Millers

ROTHERHAM United didn't bother with fireworks after beating Nottingham Forest at the weekend. 

They saved them all for the Aston Villa clash.

In the end, they lost a thrilling game of three spot-kicks and a red card against ten-man promotion contenders who triumphed for the seventh successive game.

But the effort the Millers produced meant there was only bravery and disappointment in defeat, no element of shame.

"The players are well aware of the fact that Villa is another level up," manager Warne had said in the build-up. "That has probably kept the Forest fireworks down."

What his side produced in the first half, before they fell to Villa's sheer class, lit up AESSEAL New York Stadium more than any pyrotechnic display ever could.

They survived a penalty, led through a penalty and, after the break, were pegged back by a penalty before losing to a moment of brilliance that showed Villa could be heading back to the Premier League.

Rotherham remain third from bottom of the Championship, two points away from safety, with five matches left to preserve their second-tier status.

"I thought we were outstanding in the first half," said Warne. "We deserved our lead and I couldn't have asked more of my lads.

"It was a great spectacle for the neutral. I thought two teams were trying to win a football match. They went toe to toe with each other.

"Two years ago when we were last in the Championship I might have come away from a 2-1 home defeat against Villa thinking we had done all right.

"But tonight I think we were worthy of a point and it feels like a missed opportunity. I am disappointed not to get anything. I think that shows how far we have come since then."

The Millers were in front at the break through Will Vaulks' spot-kick after Tammy Abraham had seen his penalty saved by Marek Rodak, but it was a different story when the teams re-emerged from the tunnel.

The second period began with Jack Grealish forcing a save from Rodak and then the visitors turned the contest on its head.

Substitute Jonathan Kodjia emphatically despatched the third spot-kick of the evening when Ajayi handled Ahmed El Mohamady's 48th-minute cross and soon after Grealish started and finished off a stunning Villa break.

Tyrone Mings had been sent off as his handball for Vaulks' penalty brought a second yellow card but the visitors never looked like they were a man down after half-time and were too much for Warne's team of triers.

"Villa could smell blood after their second penalty," Warne said. "They're used to winning games and they went for it.

"It's not as easy as people think to play against ten men. Sometimes it gives the opposition an extra five per cent per man to fight and scrap. It might sound crazy, but in some ways it actually helped Villa.

"The first ten minutes of the second half have obviously swung the game massively in Villa's favour. 

"We just weren't good enough on the night to get a second goal. We changed the system in the second half, we changed the personnel, but it wasn't enough."

Rotherham flew out of the blocks in the first half and within three minutes had two chances to take the lead.

Jon Taylor scampered through on the right only to send a low effort just wide before Semi Ajayi twisted and turned himself into a good position before shooting straight at Jed Steer.

In a breathless opening period Michael Ihiekwe's intervention kept out shots from Albert Adomah and Conor Hourihane in quick succession, then Taylor beat two men at the other end but couldn't get enough power behind his shot.

The same could be said of Abraham when he took a 12th-minute spot-kick awarded for Clark Robertson, who had a 45th-minute header saved, bringing down Grealish.

The striker was too casual as he aimed for Marek Rodak's left corner, although it still needed an excellent, full-length stop from the Millers goalkeeper to push the ball away.

Rotherham, so, so up for the scrap and desperate for more points in their push for safety, were hassling Villa at every turn and knocking the visitors out of their stride.

Mings turned a little nasty on 18 minute as Tyrone had a nibble at Vaulks off the ball. The Villa man was booked after the Millers captain had treated him to some sneering verbals

Millers fans were as fired up as the players and the roars grew even louder when Mings handled in his own area and was dismissed.

Vaulks stepped up to take the ensuing penalty and turned on the Will power. A rocket in firework parlance. 1-0.

But then ten Villa firecrackers produced three fizzing minutes after the interval and Rotherham were undone.

"I wasn't happy with the way we reacted to going behind," Warne said. "I thought we just lost a little bit of the battle in the middle of the pitch. 

"When they went down to ten men, the game became a bit more 'random' and I think in that 'randomness' that their quality shone through. Their midfielder, John McGinn, was outstanding. He travelled long distances with the ball and won free-kicks.

"They bring on players of the quality of Jonathan Kodjia and they have pace out wide. It was like holding a sieve of water. You can stop some dripping out in one place but then some will drip out somewhere else.

"Having said that, it took an amazing save to stop Joe Newell scoring an equaliser. Had that gone in, I don't think Villa could have had too many complaints about a draw.

"It's a shame we didn't get the draw because, with the way the games went elsewhere, a point would have been a good result."

Vaulks shot wide and Newell, cleverly played in by Joe Mattock, was denied by a great stop as the Millers strove to find a way back.

Newell curled a free-kick just wide in the 72nd minute, Taylor saw a shot deflected over two minutes later and Rodak saved well from Conor Hourihane.

On a night of three penalties there might have been a fourth late on but referee Andy Madley waved away home appeals for a Grealish handball.

Millers fireworks in the opening period, just an explosion of Villa quality in the second.

Rotherham (4-1-4-1): Marek Rodak; Zak Vyner, Michael Ihiekwe, Clark Robertson, Joe Mattock; Semi Ajayi; Jon Taylor, Will Vaulks, Richie Towell, Joe Newell; Michael Smith. Unused: Lewis Price, Richard Wood, Anthony Forde, Matt Crooks.

Subs: Ben Wiles (for Towell, 68), Kyle Vassell (for Ihiekwe, 77), Williams (for Taylor, 85).

Villa (4-3-3): Jed Steer; Ahmed El Mohamady, Axel Tuanzebe, Tyrone Mings, Neil Taylor; John McGinn, Conor Hourihane, Jack Grealish; Albert Adomah, Tammy Abraham, Anwar El Ghazi. Unused: Matija Sarkic, Henri Lansbury, Keinan Davis, Andre Green.

Subs: Mile Jedinak (for Adomah, 37), Jonathan Kodjia (for El Ghazi, H-T), Glenn Whelan (for Grealish, 90+2).

Goals: Vaulks pen 36 (Rotherham); Kodjia pen 48, Grealish 51 (Villa).

Referee: Andy Madley (West Yorkshire).

Attendance: 10,668 (2,585).