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Dean Smith defends his Aston Villa changes and explains Tuanzebe call

Sickened Aston Villa chief Dean Smith refused to point to his in-game changes as his side squandered a two-goal lead before Wolves won it in stoppage time.

Bruno Lage’s men scored all three of their goals within the final 15 minutes, with Romain Saiss starting the comeback a little over 10 minutes after Douglas Luiz was taken off for Marvelous Nakamba.

Jacob Ramsey was next to come on for a leggy Emi Buendia before Ashley Young replaced Matty Cash who was forced off with a dead leg.

Just two minutes after Smith’s final change, Moroccan defender Saiss popped up before goals from Conor Coady and Ruben Neves sealed a devastating late comeback for the visitors.

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Speaking to BirminghamLive , Smith said of his decision-making: “We weren’t sure Douglas would last as long as he did (67 minutes), so we just felt in that period it was the right time to bring Marvelous Nakamba on.

“That certainly didn’t affect the scoreline and, if anybody was going to score next it looked like it was going to be us from open play. Unfortunately, we’ve conceded from set-plays.

“I’m still trying to process it because we were comfortable and it was a travesty we’ve lost the game because apart from Traore’s run they never looked like they were going to score.

“They’ve had three set-pieces, two of them from corners and they’ve put them into the box and we’ve won the first contact.

“It was just the second phase where we went to sleep a little bit. Whether that’s a lack of concentration I don’t know.

“It certainly didn’t feel like there wasn’t a momentum shift, there wasn’t a tactical change in the game. It was just the fact they were brighter from the second phase at set-pieces and they scored goals from that.”

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Smith, 50, added: “There was silence in the dressing room afterwards. We’re in tomorrow anyway and we’ll review it and talk about it. We have to put it to bed but it’s certainly three points we’ve thrown away. As I said, Wolves are a good time but we limited them to next to nothing.

“But I’m still struggling to process (the defeat) but I will and we’ll move on. My meeting before the game was asking them for a performance because our standards dropped against Tottenham. I don’t think our standards dropped today.

“I thought our performance was good but, in the last 10 minutes, we didn’t defend our box well enough from set-pieces and we ended up losing a game we should never have lost.

“We lacked a little bit of composure in the final 15 minutes. There were a couple of shoddy clearances. I thought it was a cheap free-kick we gave away (for their winner) as well.

“For the second goal we had all XI goals in our box and we’ve got to defend better. It’s a lesson learnt. I’ll take the performance because that doesn’t win games.

“We’ve also just lost the last 15 minutes back as coaches. Douglas was tiring and the move was always the like-for-like with Nakamba because we wanted to control it. Buendia also ran himself into the ground and asked to come off as well.

“He had nothing left in him. (Ramsey) was the natural one to come on. Matty Cash got a dead leg and the natural replacement was Ashley Young so they were all like-for-like replacements, and I didn’t have much else to do in terms of changes in the game.

“There was nothing tactical involved, they just scored from the second phase of set-pieces.

“You can question game-management given the fouls we gave away but it’s something we’ll address tomorrow. That crazy 10 minutes rarely happens in football. It happened with us against Sheffield United a few years ago.

Conor Coady of Wolverhampton Wanderers celebrates
Conor Coady of Wolverhampton Wanderers celebrates

“There wasn’t a momentum shift. Yes, their first goal lifted them but we still defended the first ball into the box well but not the second.”

Smith was asked about his change in defence as he drafted in Axel Tuanzebe for Kortney Hause, with the former struggling on his return to the side.

Smith said: “I felt that (Raul) Jimenez would play and, with his agility, Axel could help us with that in a sense. Axel and Kortney are top players. I spoke to Kortney and told him my reasons.

“He wasn’t the worst player against Tottenham, nor was he the best player. I’m paid to make decisions and my call was to go with them three today but, for me, that wasn’t the reason we lost that today.”



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