MILLWALL put in a battling display at Villa Park on Monday but couldn’t prevent Aston Villa from winning a club-record 10th straight league game.
Jonathan Kodjia gave Villa the lead in the 31st minute when he slid home Anwar El Ghazi’s cross.
David Martin produced a string of saves after the break but the Lions couldn’t make a breakthrough at the other end.
Another narrow defeat for Millwall, who kept themselves in this game through sheer grit and effort.
They didn’t have the class of Villa, and particularly Jack Grealish, who seems to slow everything down to his own pace.
Villa looked like they had another gear, but the Lions gave themselves a chance of getting something from the game in the last 10 minutes.
They contained the threat from the left a lot better in the second half than the first, though Villa still had chances to extend their lead, and at the ground where he made his Millwall debut and kept a clean sheet, David Martin was again excellent. One save from substitute Andre Green with seven minutes left was pure instinct as he touched the ball over the bar from the attacker’s volley. Anwar El Ghazi will also wonder how he failed to beat the goalkeeper, especially when he was through one-on-one with three minutes left and Martin somehow touched the ball around the post.
Millwall couldn’t pin the hosts back near their own box in the way they often do with free-kicks and corners. Villa looked so dangerous on the break, and should have added to their lead.
Millwall look nervously at Rotherham again.
Neil Harris made one change to the side that started the 1-1 draw against Brentford on Good Friday, with Ben Marshall starting for the injured Ben Thompson.
Jiri Skalak replaced Thompson on the bench.
Jed Wallace played off Lee Gregory up front.
4-4-1-1: Martin; Romeo (Elliott, 88), Pearce, Cooper, Meredith (O’Brien, 64); Marshall, Tunnicliffe (Morison, 80), Leonard, Ferguson; Wallace; Gregory.
Subs: Amos, McLaughlin, Williams, Skalak.
Martin saved superbly at the feet of Kodjia in the 29th minute after Ryan Leonard had given the ball away.
The reprieve was short-lived as the hosts worked the ball out to the left to El Ghazi and when he crossed Kodjia arrived at the near post to prod home.
That was where most of Villa’s best attacks were coming from, little surprise given Grealish’s position in a deep-left midfield role.
Another dart forward from that position by Grealish drew a foul from Leonard, but Martin was well-positioned to save El Ghazi’s free-kick.
Millwall, though comfortable for spells in the first half, didn’t carry a consistent attacking threat. Jed Steer pushed Jed Wallace’s effort out for a corner, and Marshall saw a shot blocked later in the half.
Villa picked up in the second half where they had left off in the first and El Ghazi snapped in a shot but it was straight at Martin.
In the 52nd minute Wallace shrugged off a couple of challenges to move into a decent position, but he lifted his shot well over Steer’s crossbar.
Three minutes later Millwall put together their best passing sequence of the game as they worked the ball from left to right. Mahlon Romeo produced an excellent first touch to set up a shooting chance, but then he scuffed his effort wide.
Immediately down the other end Kodjia wriggled through in the box and looked set to extend Villa’s lead before shooting wide of the post.
Villa boss Dean Smith sought to give his side more threat on the right by bringing on Green for Albert Adomah. Almost immediately Green beat James Meredith and sent in a cross that was deflected to Martin. Grealish then drew in Millwall defenders on the left side of the box before switching the play to Green, who took the ball wide but shot into the side netting.
That Villa pair combined again, this time Green pulling the ball back to Grealish whose low effort was saved by Martin using his left boot.
With 20 minutes left Jake Cooper had a better chance than perhaps he knew. From Alex Pearce’s free-kick from halfway, Steer raced off his line and Cooper just had to glance it into an empty net, albeit from about 15 yards, but he was facing slightly away from goal and tried to power it back across for a team-mate, but the ball went wide.
Martin saved again from El Ghazi as Villa looked for the security of a second. Martin then brilliantly saved from Green to keep his side within touching distance.
In the 86th minute Pearce nodded down Shane Ferguson’s corner and Gregory reacted quickly, but couldn’t keep his hooked effort down.
Martin then produced arguably his best save of the game when he denied El Ghazi again.
Villa didn't need a second, as their run goes on.
Image: Millwall FC