Player Analysis: James Bree vs Sheff Wednesday
James Bree performed superbly for Steve Bruce’s Aston Villa during their 2-0 win against Sheffield Wednesday at Villa Park.
19-year-old Bree signed for Villa in January from Barnsley for £3 million. He played the full 90 minutes as Villa secured an impressive clean sheet against arguably one of the hottest strikeforces in the Championship.
Bree began the game strongly as Wednesday put the Villa back four under considerable pressure in the opening half hour.
The Owls’ goalkeeper Kieren Westwood consistently looked to make use of the aerial ability that both Adam Reach and Jordan Rhodes possess, but Bree won the majority of his headed battles.
Villa centre-back Nathan Baker hobbled off with a knee injury and was replaced by Alan Hutton. For the rest of the first-half Mile Jedinak moved into centre of defence, Hutton played on the right and Bree moved into the midfield.
He soon had a chance after Villa began to suppress Wednesday’s attacking firepower and make a few opportunities of their own. He met Jordan Amavi’s tempting cross at the back post on the half volley but his shot hit the side netting from a tight angle.
Villa’s pressure eventually resulted in a deserved half-time lead. As Conor Hourihane stepped up to take a corner Bree smartly lost his marker, Reach, in the area and made space for a short corner. He returned the ball to his former Barnsley teammate, who crossed for Jonathan Kodjia to head Villa ahead unmarked.
After half-time came the major talking point of the game. Wednesday centre-back Vincent Sasso was sent off for a challenge on Hourihane; manager Carlos Carvalhal soon followed after showing his anger at referee Lee Probert.
Wednesday’s one-man deficit meant that Villa found space to attack full-backs Jack Hunt and Morgan Fox. Bree had a part to play in two excellent Villa chances.
First, he won the ball from Reach and played a clever through ball to Albert Adomah. His cross was certain to be met by Kodjia but for good defending by Hunt.
Bree again helped to create a good chance soon after. He found Hutton on the overlap and played him in behind Fox but the Scotsman’s cross was poor with both Kodjia and Adomah waiting in the area.
Steven Fletcher was introduced by Wednesday towards the end of the game and allowed The Owls to try a more direct approach. Bree lost a few aerial challenges to Fletcher, but his pace allowed him to recover and block any resulting play from the first flick-on.
Fletcher’s partner Rhodes, who had been quiet all game, found himself in behind Villa’s backline and through on goal. However Bree’s pace allowed him to get goal-side of the former Middlesborough striker and do just enough to put him off and make him uncharacteristically snatch at his chance, sending his shot high and wide.
Bree played his part in a clean sheet and an all-round good display by Steve Bruce’s side, and should expect to start Villa’s next game against Wigan Athletic on Saturday.