EPL

Late Lucas Digne goal sees Aston Villa snatch win over battling Luton

By Sports Desk March 02, 2024

Aston Villa maintained their push for a top-four finish in the Premier League as substitute Lucas Digne headed an 89th-minute winner to defeat Luton 3-2 at Kenilworth Road.

Unai Emery’s side looked to have thrown away two points, allowing Luton to fight back from two goals down in the second half, until Digne arrived at the far post to turn Moussa Diaby’s deep cross past Thomas Kaminski and into the net, in front of ecstatic away fans.

The hosts had fought back bravely to level the game at 2-2, Tahith Chong and Carlton Morris scoring after a brace from Ollie Watkins had seemingly put Villa in control at the break.

Defeat for Rob Edwards’ side was their fourth in a row, whilst Villa maintained their five-point lead over Tottenham in the race for the Champions League.

Kaminski had been the home side’s hero in the opening quarter, first diving full stretch to turn away a right-footer from Jacob Ramsey, then yet more acrobatically when Watkins got in down the right and lashed one towards the near post, beaten behind brilliantly by the goalkeeper.

Yet his endeavours were rendered in vain a minute later when from the resulting corner Watkins headed Villa in front. Leon Bailey’s ball arched invitingly into the six-yard box where the Villa striker had got free, and he used the space afford by slack Luton marking to rise up and direct the ball coolly past Kaminski into the top corner for his 20th goal of the season.

Villa lost the influential Ramsey to injury on the half-hour mark, but it did little to break their confident stride. Watkins almost made it two 10 minutes before the break, standing up Teden Mengi on the right before knocking it round the defender and cracking a low shot off Kaminski’s far post.

Luton had been warned about Watkins’ pace in behind but their high line continued to allow him space, and soon he had made good on his threat of a second.

The defence had pushed up towards near the centre circle when Douglas Luiz lumped one over the top for Villa’s top scorer to stride on to. With no one in orange near him, he made light work of clipping Villa’s second goal in off the post. VAR checked for offside, but Watkins had timed his run perfectly.

Edwards’ side emerged with renewed urgency after the break and the home support responded in kind, roaring their team on as they began to find success attacking down the right with the lively Issa Kabore.

A goal to give them hope arrived after 66 minutes. Villa failed to deal with a corner, forcing Matt Cash into a desperate headed clearance off the line. Still the defence dithered, and as the ball ricocheted back into the six-yard box, Chong pounced to thump it home.

Suddenly Villa were tottering. Six minutes later, their lead was gone and it was the simplest Luton goal.

Alfie Doughty hit a huge, raking free-kick from near the touchline which sailed over everyone to the back post. Arriving unmarked with time to pick his spot was Morris, who timed his run expertly and with barely an upwards glance swept it beyond Martinez.

Luton were now rampant and an almost identical move gave Morris the chance to win it, fractionally failing to make the required contact as the ball was flashed across goal from Doughty’s free-kick.

They looked at least to have done enough for a point, but then came Digne’s dramatic intervention at the death to break Luton hearts and keep Villa in the Champions League driving seat.

Related items

  • Man City players going ‘in the fridge’ to chill after busy week – Pep Guardiola Man City players going ‘in the fridge’ to chill after busy week – Pep Guardiola

    Pep Guardiola feels his Manchester City players will need to cool off “in the fridge” after their exertions of the past few days.

    City responded to last Wednesday’s draining penalty shootout loss to Real Madrid by digging in for a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Chelsea in their FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Saturday.

    The win, secured by a late goal from Bernardo Silva, maintained their hope of defending the domestic double but Guardiola later hit out at the scheduling of the fixture.

    The City boss felt his players should have been allowed more rest after their European game and he now intends to give them a break before they return to Premier League action at Brighton on Thursday.

    “In the fridge for two days,” said Guardiola when asked what his plans were for his squad ahead of the trip to the Amex Stadium.

    “Don’t see each other, stay at home with your families. Try to rest, nothing special.

    “Two days to prepare for Brighton and (Nottingham) Forest. One game at a time.”

    Guardiola clarified comments after the game suggesting he could boycott media duties over the issue.

    The Spaniard insisted he meant to say he would not have time to go above and beyond the usual obligations.

    “No, it’s Gary Lineker – come on!” he said, in reference to the host of Saturday’s BBC TV coverage.

    “If they ask for a photoshoot for the broadcasters, I’ll say no I’m busy, I don’t have time. It’s a joke for the future.

    “I always attend the media because I represent this institution. I’ve always done it and will always do it, but if they ask for extra then I don’t have time.

    “If you put me in a game every three days then the managers have a lot to do.”

    Guardiola also praised the character of Silva, who had been one of two City players to miss in the penalties in the defeat by Real. The Portuguese had also been close to being substituted shortly before scoring his 84th-minute winner.

    He said: “Always life gives you a second chance and he took it.

    “I was thinking of changing it and put Oscar (Bobb) on the right but, after the goal, Bernardo is so intelligent to keep the ball. So intuitive. In that moment I could not change him.

    “He was so tired but Bernardo has this special intelligence. I’m so happy, he deserves the best. They weren’t easy days for him.”

  • Erik ten Hag: Man Utd got away with it but Coventry scare is not ’embarrassment’ Erik ten Hag: Man Utd got away with it but Coventry scare is not ’embarrassment’

    Erik Ten Hag insisted he was not embarrassed but admitted Manchester United “got away with it” after edging past Championship Coventry on penalties in their FA Cup semi-final.

    The Premier League outfit were given an almighty scare at Wembley on Sunday as the second-tier side fought back from 3-0 down and then had a late extra-time winner disallowed for a marginal offside.

    A thrilling contest ended 3-3 after 120 minutes and it was United who ultimately prevailed, 4-2 on spot-kicks, to set up a repeat of last year’s final against rivals Manchester City.

    It was another highly unconvincing performance by United – which may have increased the pressure on under-fire manager Ten Hag – but the Dutchman tried to highlight the positives.

    Ten Hag said: “I can’t say that word (embarrassment) because, at the end of the day, it’s about the achievement.

    “I see the mistakes we make – we can’t look away from it – but it’s not an embarrassment. It’s a huge achievement.

    “Even the big team from United, a decade ago, only achieved the final three times. We now have two times in two years. So that’s a good performance.

    “I see we can play in very high levels but in the same match we can also go very low. That’s not explainable. It has to do with managing the game.

    “I have to teach my players, clearly. We have to do better in such occasions.

    “On several occasions we’ve let the result slip away but today we got away with it.”

    United had looked to be cruising past an apparently inferior opponent as they opened up a handsome lead with goals from Scott McTominay, Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes.

    Yet the Sky Blues, who are eighth in the Championship, pulled one back through Ellis Simms on 71 minutes and then threw caution to the wind.

    Callum O’Hare pulled another back with a deflected strike and Haji Wright sent the game into extra time with a stoppage-time penalty after handball by Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

    Both sides hit the bar in extra time before Victor Torp thought he had snatched a dramatic winner in the closing minutes, only for VAR to rule Wright fractionally offside in the build-up.

    Despite the heartbreaking manner of the loss, Sky Blues manager Mark Robins insisted there was no feeling of injustice.

    The former United striker said: “If it’s the right call, it’s the right call. I think he was a toenail offside, which is disappointing. Had he cut his toenail, we wouldn’t be talking about penalties.

    “This FA Cup run will be spoken about, certainly in Coventry City circles, for a long, long time.

    “Whilst I’m disappointed for everybody, we can’t be too down about it. We’ve gone toe to toe with Manchester United, come back from 3-0 down and almost won it with a fourth, then lost it in a shoot-out, which can happen.

    “We performed like Manchester United for that last half-hour and that’s what I’m most proud of.

    “This club has been in the doldrums for so long but we’re certainly out of that period. We’ve just got to keep moving it forward, which is why we won’t feel sorry for ourselves.”

  • Jurgen Klopp hails ‘complete’ second-half performance as Liverpool beat Fulham Jurgen Klopp hails ‘complete’ second-half performance as Liverpool beat Fulham

    Jurgen Klopp lauded Liverpool’s “complete” second-half performance after they secured a 3-1 victory at Fulham to move level on points with top-of-the-table Arsenal.

    Liverpool regained their winning touch in the Premier League after last week’s 1-0 home defeat to Crystal Palace as they enjoyed three points with goals from Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ryan Gravenberch and Diogo Jota.

    Timothy Castagne had equalised for the Cottagers with his first goal for the club in the first half but it was not enough as Klopp’s men showed their class after the break.

    “The second half was a complete performance, if you want,” Klopp said.

    “It was our best performance so far that we’ve had against Fulham. I thought the next step was to win today, the boys did that and it was really good. We created much more chances, we could’ve scored more often.

    “I’m really happy with the performance and hopefully nobody got hurt and we will see because we have to recover quickly as we’re playing on Wednesday.

    “We’re in the situation we are at the moment because of the character of these boys. Nobody expected us to be here and we are and that’s because of the boys.”

    Alexander-Arnold’s 32nd-minute free-kick was the pick of the goals after his stunning strike gave the Reds the lead.

    Klopp believes “nobody plays like” the full-back after he returned from a knee injury at Anfield last week.

    https://twitter.com/premierleague/status/1782083567528333595

    When asked how important it is to have Alexander-Arnold back in the side, Klopp added: “It’s super important.

    “Nobody is like Trent so that’s how it is. The way we play with him can be different so it’s super helpful and I’m really happy about that.

    “It’s good for once to have all the big guns around.

    “It’s a great free-kick and he has that from time to time. We needed it, it was a great goal, the other goals were good. For long periods of time Trent was exceptional, superb.”

    Fulham boss Marco Silva admitted the defending in the lead-up to Liverpool’s second and third goals needed to be better as his side rued a leaky performance at the back.

    Silva said: “I think the third goal killed the game, we were very loose on the right. It was one moment we should be stronger in the challenge because we were soft and it was a moment to stop the situation before Jota scored.

    “It was hard to concede the second and third in the second half. After that it was hard for us to react.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.