A resolute defensive performance saw Aston Villa hold high-flying Southampton to a 1-1 draw on Monday night, with defender Jores Okore one of the home team’s standout performers.
Making his first Villa appearance since suffering a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in September last season, the 22-year-old Dane didn’t look like he had been out of action for 14 months, as he helped keep the visitors’ imposing attack at bay until Nathaniel Clyne’s 81st-minute equaliser.
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Deputising for injured trio Ron Vlaar, Philippe Senderos and Nathan Baker on the night, it was a performance which saw him signalled out for particular praise by manager Paul Lambert at the final whistle, along with centre-back partner Ciaran Clark.
"Jores Okore hasn't played for 14 months. And he was outstanding. Ciaran Clark took the lead and helped him. I thought Ciaran was excellent,” he told the club’s official website.
"We had two young guys at the heart of our defence. Ciaran has been in and out of the side but never lets you down every time he plays. Jores was outstanding.”
Signing from FC Nordsjælland last summer for around £4 million, despite reported interest from Chelsea, Okore made just four appearances during his first season at Villa before suffering the serious knee injury against Newcastle United on September 14.
He managed to return to the pitch during pre-season but, despite featuring twice for the club's reserves, as well as for both Denmark's senior side and Under-21s earlier in the campaign, was made to wait for his first-team comeback, with Vlaar, Senderos, Baker and Clark all preferred options over him.
That led him to question his future at the club just last week after captaining his national team’s under-21s to a 2-2 draw with the Czech Republic, telling Danish station TV2: “I came to Villa to play and I am going to fight to make that happen.
“But at the same time I need to play, so I don’t want to exclude anything when it comes to the coming transfer window.”
Now, however, with Vlaar, Senderos and Baker all expected to be out for a few more weeks, the 10-times capped international looks set for a consistent run in the first-team with which to further prove his potential.