Aston Villa have taken control of Europa Conference League Group E after thrashing AZ Alkmaar 4-1 at the AFAS Stadion.
Goals from Leon Bailey and Youri Tielemans gave Villa a two-goal cushion before Ollie Watkins and John McGinn bagged in the second half, while Ibrahim Sadiq’s fine strike came only as a consolation for the hosts. After claiming successive wins in the competition – having also defeated Zrinjski Mostar at the start of the month – Unai Emery’s side will qualify for the knockouts with two more victories at home against AZ and Legia in November.
Emery opted to make four changes to the side which defeated West Ham 4-1 on Sunday. Diego Calros, Clement Lenglet, Tielemans and Bailey all came into the team as Ezri Konsa, Pau Torres, Nicolo Zaniolo and Moussa Diaby dropped to the subs bench.
Villa asserted their dominance on proceedings from the get-go and managed to open the scoring early on. Moments after making a mess of his first opportunity, Bailey made sure he got a clean strike off at goal after Villa recycled one of their first attacks of the game. From the edge of the box, the winger drilled the ball past former Brighton goalkeeper Mat Ryan to hand Villa the lead.
Ten minutes after breaking the deadlock, Villa doubled their lead through Tielemans. After the midfielder pressured Sven Mijnans, the AZ man surrendered possession to McGinn, who found the Belgian in space inside the box, before he managed to tuck the ball under Ryan.
Villa nearly shot themselves in the foot after scoring their second, as Boubacar Kamara lost the ball on the edge of the box, but AZ striker Vangelis Pavlidis fired over.
Watkins added a third six minutes after the break, before McGinn got in on the act by guiding Bailey’s cross in at the near post. AZ winger Sadiq reduced his side’s advantage late on by beating Martinez at his far post, but Emery’s side had already wrapped up an important three points in their quest to top Europa Conference League Group E.
Was hardly tested in the first half, but came out to claim a few crosses. He was beaten in the second period through an outstanding effort from Ibrahim Sadiq. 7
Very little went down his right flank once again. Another impressive showing from Cash, who appears to have taken his game to a new level this season. He had big shoes to fill after Konsa was rested, and he did just that. 8
Carlos made his sixth start for Villa in all competitions tonight, having last featured for Villa in the 1-1 draw with Wolves before the October international break. 8
Made his third start for Villa, all of which have come in the Europa Conference League. He was booked for a proffesional foul in the first half, but partnered Carlos well at the heart of defence as Villa were made to suffer at points in the match. 8
Left it all on the pitch again tonight. Digne has played an awful lot of football at the start of this season and his performances have been consistently strong. 8
Kamara was an imperious force in the middle of the park tonight, making a number of crucial blocks and tackles. He was let off after Villa went ahead as he lost the ball on the edge of Villa’s box, and he should have been punished by Pavlidis. 8
He was one step ahead of the AZ midfielders, as is so often the case against most of his opponents. He was replaced in the 69th minute and Villa lost some control on the game 8
Had the presence of mind to pick Tielemans out inside the box which led to Villa’s second goal, before he came up with Villa’s fourth. Excellent from the Scot. 9
Named in the starting side for the fifth time this evening. This was by far his best performance in claret and blue since joining on a free transfer. He making the right pass selections and was always making space to receive the ball in pockets between the lines. 9
Came back in the team after last starting from the off against Zrinjski and scored his sixth goal in all competitions this evening. He opened the scoring with a brilliant strike past Ryan. 9
Led the line well tonight. His pace in transition caused problems as the AS defenders were occupied by his intelligent runs off the ball. Bagged his first goal of the group stage. 8
Nicolo Zaniolo (for Luiz, 69): The Italian saw little of the ball after coming into the game after Villa had completed their business. 6
Moussa Diaby (for McGinn, 81): N/A
Jhon Duran (for Watkins, 85): N/A
Leander Dendoncker (for Kamara, 85): N/A
Bertrand Traore (for Traore, 85): N/A
Subs not used: Olsen, Marschall, Torres, Konsa, Chambers.
AZ Alkmaar: Sadiq (65)
Aston Villa: Bailey (13), Tielemans (23), Watkins (51), McGinn (56)
What did you make of Villa’s performance? Tell us in the comments section…
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