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Steve Bruce gamble pays off as Birkir Bjarnason takes Reading apart

Aston Villa

Steve Bruce gamble pays off as Birkir Bjarnason takes Reading apart

The Icelandic international was in fine form against Reading this week.

Aston Villa kept their slim hopes of automatic promotion alive this week, by handing out a 3-0 thrashing of relegation-threatened Reading at Villa Park. the result leaves Villa seven points behind second-placed Cardiff City with six games left to play.

Steve Bruce recalled Birkir Bjarnason for the game after the Icelandic midfielder missed out on selection entirely for the Good Friday clash with Hull City.

SANTA CLARA, CA – MARCH 23: Birkir Bjarnason #8 of Iceland in action against Mexico during their match at Levi’s Stadium on March 23, 2018 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

His complete exclusion was certainly a surprise, but not when considering the international break he had. Bjarnason featured for Iceland against Mexico and Peru in San Francisco and New York during international duty. With that in mind, the Birmingham Mail reported that Bjarnason was told to rest as Villa took on Hull.

They drew that game 0-0 but leaving Bjarnason to recover certainly paid dividends against Reading last night.

The 29-year-old put in arguably his best ever performance for Villa in the game against the Royals. He scored a sublime 25-yard strike to get the scoring going. He continued to shine throughout the game. Bjarnason was a constant option in the heart of midfield and ran the game from his central role.

It was the type of performance he has consistently put in when given a chance since nearly leaving the club in the January transfer window.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND – APRIL 03: Birkir Bjarnason of Aston Villa in action during the Sky Bet Championship match between Aston Villa and Reading at Villa Park on April 3, 2018 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Some would argue that leaving him out v Hull was a mistake, but taking four points from the Easter fixtures is a good achievement for any team in the Championship.

Bruce’s decision to keep Bjarnason fresh for the Reading fixture ensured they had enough in the tank to ensure all three points v Paul Clement’s men.

As for Bjarnason, he will hope this performance has secured him a regular starting place for the rest of the campaign. Bruce will certainly struggle to leave him out after this impressive display.

Sports journalist based in Bristol. Everton fan for my sins.

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