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Youth Soccer
Saturday, December 16, 2023
Burchall Returns to Aston Villa Action

Ajani Burchall made a return to Football after 17 months as his teammate Taylor-Jay Hart came off the bench to rescue a point for Aston Villa against Fulham in Premier League 2 at Bodymoor Heath.

The away team saw Jay Williams sent off for denying a goalscoring opportunity with just 17 minutes on the clock.

But the west London side proceeded to produce a dogged defensive display either side of netting the opening goal via Kristian Sekularac just before half-time.

And despite dominating the match, it took Villa until the first minute of second-half stoppage time to net a deserved equalizer when Hart smashed home from close-range.

Aston Villa were led by captain Tommi O’Reilly, fresh from his senior debut in the Europa Conference League last night, as they looked to take down their third-place opponents.

And they were given a helping hand after 17 minutes when last man Williams, who was robbed of possession by Rico Richards, pulled the Villa attacker down as he advanced towards the box and was shown a straight red card.

Despite holding a numerical advantage, it took the hosts 30 minutes to register their first shot on goal when O’Reilly rolled his man on the edge of the box and fired straight at Alfie McNally.

The ten men’s response was immediate as they raced up the other end and saw Sekularac’s snapshot tipped over the crossbar spectacularly by Sam Proctor.

Villa began to control proceedings, penning Fulham inside their own half, but were hit by a sucker punch just before half-time.

An incisive counter-attack finished with Luke Harris pulling the ball back to Sekularac, whose shot deflected past Proctor.

O’Reilly tested McNally with a low drive to begin the second half as the home side came out determined to get themselves back into the game.

A monopoly on possession and territory was failing to yield clear-cut chances for the hosts, who introduced Burchall, Aidan Borland, Taylor-Jay Hart, and Jayden Barber in a bid to change their fortunes.

Fulham were being worked side-to-side as they sat back in their defensive shape, with Ben Broggio delivering several dangerous balls into the box.

And Villa’s patient play produced an opening for Hart to shoot from the edge of the box, with the midfielder’s rasping, rising drive superbly saved by McNally.

The chance once again sparked Fulham into life offensively and Ollie O’Neill sent a shot against the post before Imani Lanquedoc’s follow-up was parried clear by Proctor.

Sekularac then blazed a golden opportunity over the bar and it was to cost his side as Hart turned home O’Reilly’s cutback in the first of the six minutes of stoppage time.

Villa pressed on in search of a winner in the time that remained and came agonizingly close to snatching one when Todd Alcock’s close-range shot was tipped wide by McNally.
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