Irish midfielder Conor Hourihane delivered a man of the match display on Monday night as Aston Villa picked up a much-needed victory over Newcastle at Villa Park.
Hourihane ran the game for his side, scoring a fantastic free-kick as well as setting up teammate Anwar El-Ghazi for Villa’s second while notching up a hugely impressive 98% passing accuracy.
The win sees Villa jump four points clear of the bottom three, but for Hourihane it was the perfect game for him to prove just what he means to Dean Smith’s side.
"That wand of a left-foot does the trick again!" ✨
Conor Hourihane with one straight off the training ground! 🎯
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) November 25, 2019
The 27-year-old hadn’t started a game since October 19th and was left out of the squad completely for their game against Manchester City the following week.
After the being restored to the starting XI, Hourihane shone and speaking following the game Villa boss Dean Smith admitted that the Cork man answered his manager in the “best way.”
“He’s got a goal threat. He wasn’t happy when I left him out of the game at Manchester City. I understand why but it’s a squad game and I have hard decisions to make.
“I knew we would spend an awful lot of that game defending, and for this game I knew we would have a lot of the ball. He’s answered me in the best way, so I’m really pleased for him.”
Hourihane’s goal, a wonderful free-kick from the edge of the area, puts him top of the scoring charts at the club ahead of Jack Grealish and striker Wesley.
Smith praised his side’s performance and took the time to single out his midfielder’s “wand of a left foot.”
“It was a good performance, especially in the first half. We controlled the ball really well, dominated possession.
“We were pretty relentless with the ball, but patient as well because they banked in and made it difficult.
“If you keep chasing the ball then players get frustrated. I told my players to be patient, move at a good tempo and we ended up winning two free-kicks around their box.
“With Conor’s wand of a left foot he ends up scoring one and makes another, so I’m really pleased.”
Conor Hourihane's vs. Newcastle:
– 98% pass accuracy
– 43 passes attempted
– 42 passes completed
– 10 crosses
– 5 crosses from open play
– 3 chances created
– 1 assist
– 1 goal
— VillaTilliDie (@VillaTil1Die) November 25, 2019
Hourihane’s display on Monday night is a promising one for Irish fans who will be hoping his form at club level can continue into the new year as Mick McCarthy’s men prepare for the Euro 2020 playoffs.
The midfielder has found himself in and out of the Irish starting XI over the past few qualifiers having started the campaign as one of their key players but the 27-year-old could still have a massive part to play if the Boys in Green are to reach next summer’s finals.