Steve Bruce has hailed striker Jonathan Kodjia’s resilience after his man of the match performance helped Aston Villa beat Bristol City.
The Villa manager admitted that the forward “can drive us all mad at times” but praised the Ivorian after he put the disappointment of a missed penalty behind him to score one and create the other in a 2-0 win against his former club.
The 27-year-old arrived at Villa Park in a £11million deal from Sky Bet Championship rivals City last summer and was jeered by the away fans after crashing a first-half penalty against the crossbar.
However, Kodjia had the last laugh by scoring Villa’s opener and then setting up Conor Hourihane’s first goal for the club following his January switch from Barnsley as the hosts put nine points between themselves and a struggling City side now without a win in their last five.
The victory follows Villa’s first win of 2017 against Derby at the weekend – improved form that has coincided with Kodjia returning from international duty with Ivory Coast – and Bruce was delighted with back-to-back clean sheets.
“We’ve played far better than that and lost but what we have seen in the last few days is the resilience, two clean sheets,” he said.
“He (Kodjia) can drive us all mad at times, there’s no question about that. But when you look at his goals – that’s his 12th in what, 24 games, that ain’t bad at all so fair play to him.
“He was devastated at half-time but he’s come back. He’s got us a good goal again.
“It’s been difficult for him because he’s just come back from the African Nations where there was a big expectation on him and it didn’t quite happen for them and we’ve missed him while he’s been away – we went on a bad run when we didn’t have his goals so it’s good to have him back.
“He’s come from relatively nowhere to representing his country and getting a big move to Aston Villa and when you look at his stats he’s done okay. Without him we’d be in trouble.”
Bruce also admitted that he regretted not taking Kodjia off penalty duty for the night given the opposition.
“I should have done better for him,” he added. “I always know that taking a penalty against your old team, I should have changed it and I kick myself for that.
“I always think that psychology comes into it, then the goalkeeper knows what you do – you practice them every day and he probably practised them against him last year.
“It was a fight in the first half. I think everyone was thinking we should have stayed home and watched Coronation Street – that would have been better than the first half. But at least they’ve seen a bit of resilience on a horrible night and seen a bit of quality in the second half.”
Bailey Wright hit the post for City before Fabian Giefer clattered into Gary Gardner at the other end to concede a penalty after 19 minutes.
The keeper was fortunate not to be sent off for denying a goalscoring opportunity and his luck held again as Kodjia thumped the spot-kick against the bar.
Kodjia finally opened the scoring after 54 minutes. Alan Hutton and Albert Adomah combined well down the right, and the Ivorian converted a glancing header from the latter’s cross.
Kodjia was again involved in Villa’s second five minutes later, dispossessing Joe Bryan by the corner flag before cutting the ball back for Adomah, who scuffed his shot to Hourihane to tap home from six yards.
Defeat leaves City outside the bottom three only on goal difference and manager Lee Johnson admitted he was disappointed with the way his side conceded twice in five minutes.
“I thought first half we were good, playing on the front foot,” he said. “It’s a fine line between success and failure.
“We had a wobbly spell 10 minutes into the second half and that disappointed me – we dropped a bit deep and got a bit timid.”