Aston Villa 2-1 Brighton: Unai Emery’s side QUALIFY for the Europa Conference League, as goals from Douglas Luiz and Ollie Watkins see the Villains secure European football for the first time in THIRTEEN years
- Aston Villa secured their return to European football with a 2-1 win vs Brighton
- Douglas Luiz and Ollie Watkins’ first-half goals put the hosts two goals ahead
- Brighton had a goal disallowed before Denis Undav scored for the Seagulls
Aston Villa will play European football for the first time since 2010 after withstanding a spirited Brighton fight back at Villa Park.
Man-of-the-match Jacob Ramsey set up goals for Douglas Luiz and Ollie Watkins in the opening 26 minutes to earn Villa the win they needed to book a place in the Conference League but the visitors made life awkward when Deniz Undav replied shortly before half-time.
Villa’s finishing position of seventh is remarkable given they were 16th when manager Unai Emery took over in November and Brighton can also feel proud of their season’s work to end the campaign in sixth.
Emery’s unchanged side started like a house on fire roared on by a full house at Villa Park against opponents who made six alterations.
After four minutes Jacob Ramsey sped past Alexis Mac Allister on the left and from his pullback Leon Bailey turned sharply to hit the crossbar.
It didn’t take however for Villa dominance to count.
Ramsey was again the provider, taking on Joel Veltman and rolling a pass into Douglas Luiz who sidefooted confidently past Jason Steele.
It was a second home goal in a row for the Brazilian, voted as Villa’s Player of the Season.
Brighton overcame their own sluggish start to give Villa major scare after 21 minutes.
Julio Enciso’s cross from the left was stabbed home by Undav before a lengthy VAR check ruled the South American had been marginally offside in putting in the assist.
Villa were rattled with Matt Cash and Ramsey collecting bookings but the addition of a second goal after 26 minutes calmed nerves.
Ramsey, unluckily left out of Gareth Southgate’s latest England squad, was again a key figure, racing on to Bailey’s pass after Mac Allister had lost possession for Brighton in midfield.
As goalkeeper Jason Steele rushed out, Ramsey had the presence of mind to slip the ball across for Watkins to tap home.
It was the Villa striker’s 16th goal of an impressive season but his first in seven matches.
Emery was probably puzzled why at 2-0 Villa were keeping the game so open.
John McGinn was denied by Steele with a chance to make it 3-0 but at the other end Cash needed to make two goal-saving blocks to keep out Ferguson and Undav, and Ferguson also shot wide.
Undav’s luck changed after 38 minutes when he converted Pascal Gross’ pass from eight yards. An assistant’s flag judged the forward offside but this time a VAR check decided the goal was legitimate.
It was Undav’s fifth goal in eight games for The Seagulls and their manager Roberto De Zerbi went stronger by sending on regulars Pervis Estupinan and Moises Caicedo at the interval with Kaoro Mitoma added midway through the second half.
The pace continued to be relentless in a swirling wind. Mac Allister grimaced as his shot was inches wide but at the other end a stretching Ramsey diverted Bailey’s cross over from a few yards when the goal was begging.
ASTON VILLA: (4-2-3-1) Martinez 7: Cash 7, Konsa 6, Mings 6.5, Digne 7; Kamara 7, Luiz 7; Bailey 7 (Buendia 69 6), McGinn 7, Ramsey 8; Watkins 6.5.
Subs not used:Olsen (Gk), Diego Carlos, Chambers, Young, Dendoncker, Traore, Revan, Patterson
Goals: Luiz 8′; Watkins 26′
Bookings: Mings; Cash; McGinn; Ramsey; McGinn
Coach: Unai Emery 7
BRIGHTON: (4-2-3-1) Steele 7: Veltman 5 (Estupinan 45 6), Colwill 6.5, Webster 6 (van Hecke 65 5), Gross 6.5; Ayari 6 (Caicedo 45 6), Mac Allister 5.5; Buonanotte 5.5, Undav 7 (Hinshelwood 89), Enciso 7 (Mitoma 65 7); Ferguson 6.5.
Subs not used: McGill (Gk), Dunk, Gilmour, Welbeck
Goals: Undav 38′
Bookings: Undav; Buonanotte; Caicedo.
Coach: Roberto De Zerbi 6.5
Referee: David Coote 5
Player of the Match: TBA
Venue: Villa Park
Poor referee David Coote found it hard to keep up with all the action. Having let plenty of physical stuff go, he eventually felt compelled to book Moises Caicedo though the Ecuadorian’s tackle looked firm but fair.
Villa fans were trying to suck the ball in for a third goal as the tension rose, aware a Brighton equaliser would probably hand the final European place to Tottenham.
Watkins rose well to head after 76 minutes but it lacked the power to beat Steele. At the other end, Mitoma was making a huge impact with Mings coming over to help Cash avert the danger.
Ramsey, a boyhood Villa fan, always looked likely to cause damage at the other end as well. His low centre fizzed across the six-yard box with Watkins only a boot length from getting a touch. The home side decided attack was the best form defence and Lucas Digne wasn’t far away with a 25-yard free-kick awarded for a foul on Watkins.
Post source: Daily mail