Aston Villa returned to winning ways in style as they put Sheffield United to the sword with four goals in the opening 30 minutes in a 5-0 romp at Bramall Lane.

Villa’s Premier League top-four hopes had faltered after winning just one of their last five matches but Unai Emery’s men put that right to move above Tottenham and back into fourth.

Goals from John McGinn, Ollie Watkins, Leon Bailey and Youri Tielemans before the half-hour put them in dreamland and Alex Moreno’s second-half goal made it a day to remember for Villa, who registered their biggest Premier League away win since 2004.

At one point they would have had history in their sights as they had more than 45 minutes to try and find four more goals which would have equalled the record victory in the Premier League era, but they took their foot off the gas.

Still, it was bad enough for Sheffield United on another embarrassing day for the club, just four months after they were beaten 8-0 by Newcastle at Bramall Lane.

Boss Chris Wilder will surely know his side will be playing in the Championship next season as they have taken just 10 points from 23 games and are the same number away from safety.

Villa will hope to use this as a springboard for the rest of the campaign as they eye Champions League qualification for the first time.

It was the vision of Douglas Luiz that enabled them to take a two-goal lead within 16 minutes.

First, the midfielder sliced open Sheffield United’s defence with a fine pass which set Watkins through on goal. The England international lifted the ball over the on-rushing Wes Foderingham and onto the post, with McGinn tucking the rebound into an empty net.

Luiz’s assist for the second goal four minutes later was even more eye-catching as he again played in Watkins with an outrageous pass with the outside of his boot and this time the striker found the bottom corner.

It was 3-0 four minutes later with another goal of quality as Bailey cut inside and whipped a brilliant left-footed strike into the top corner.

A section of the home fans were fearing a repeat of that Newcastle nightmare and left the ground and even more headed for the exit 10 minutes later when Tielemans made it 4-0 with another picturebook goal.

The Belgian found acres of space on the edge of the area from a corner, took a touch and then rifled in off the underside of the crossbar to complete a dream half-hour.

Villa needed 83 seconds of the second half to make it five, as some slapdash defending from Auston Trusty allowed Watkins to tee up Moreno to volley home from close range.

United were at least able to stem the tide and threatened to get on the scoresheet but Emiliano Martinez saved from Anel Ahmedhodzic and Jack Robinson.

Their misery was complete late on in the game when Vini Souza poked home from a set-piece but VAR ruled it out for offside.

Leon Bailey is set for contract talks at Aston Villa thanks to his sparkling recent form for Unai Emery's title challengers.

The Jamaican was among those Villa were willing to let go last summer but he has developed into a key player this term, scoring six goals and providing five assists to help Emery's men into second, three points behind leaders Liverpool.

Bailey joined Villa in 2021 for about £25million with part of the proceeds from the £100m sale of Jack Grealish to Manchester City, and signed an initial four-year deal thought to include options for extension.

But so impressive has Bailey been in the autumn and winter that Villa are keen to reward him with fresh terms and elevate him closer to Villa's top bracket of earners, which includes Emi Martinez, Tyrone Mings, Moussa Diaby and Ollie Watkins. 

Since Emery replaced Steven Gerrard in October 2022, Villa's wage bill has increased significantly, with Mings, Watkins, Martinez, John McGinn and Ezri Konsa among the players who have had big pay rises.

Bailey scored as Villa beat Burnley 3-2 in their final game of 2023, though he is likely to be among several players given a breather for Saturday's FA Cup tie at Middlesbrough. 

He said: “I'm very pleased with the way things are going for me personally. 

“I'm here to help the team as much as possible. Whenever I'm called upon, I'm here.

“I am used to the games coming so quickly like this. I've always been playing in both domestic competitions and in Europe. 

“So it's tough on your body but this is what we are in the game to do.”

 

To say that Jamaican international Leon Bailey is in the form of his life at Aston Villa, would be an understatement.

The lively winger has enjoyed life under Head coach Unai Emery and, as such, continues to display his immense potential, particularly at the backend of 2023. Bailey's remarkable performances, which has assisted Aston Villa to end the year in second position on the English Premier League standings, also resulted in him being voted Player-of-the-Month for December.

This achievement is another testament of Bailey's exceptional skills, hard work, and significant contribution to the team’s success this season. Villa is currently on 42 points, three points behind leaders Liverpool, on 45 points.

 

According to a statistics sheet released a month ago, Bailey had the highest impact per minute played in the English Premier League. The former Bayern Leverkusen player has also racked up six goals to match his five assists in his 18 games for Aston Villa.

Since the start of the season, Bailey, 26, has established himself as a key player for in Emery's side, and his performances, coupled with his ability to score at crucial times, has made him a fan favourite. Interestingly, he was also voted Player-of-the-Month for December in 2022.

With blistering pace, dribbling ability, and accurate crosses, Bailey has been a menace to opposition defence throughout the season. During the months of November and December, Bailey displayed a different level of consistency and played an instrumental role in Aston Villa’s run of form.

Bailey's goal-scoring exploits and creativity in the final third were pivotal to the team’s victories during this period, which saw Villa beating the likes of Manchester City and Arsenal, and he was again on the scoresheet, as they capped 2023 with a 3-2 win over Burnley.

Not only did Bailey contribute with goals and assists, but his overall impact on the team was also evident. He showcased awareness, vision, and good decision-making abilities, often creating scoring opportunities for his teammates, and will certainly be a force to reckon with, provided he continues in the same vein.

Aston Villa scored a late penalty to beat strugglers Burnley 3-2 and move second in the Premier League before Manchester United slumped to a 2-1 defeat at Nottingham Forest.

Villa – who lost 3-2 at Manchester United on Boxing Day after leading 2-0 – went ahead in the 28th minute through Leon Bailey.

The Clarets were back on level terms just three minutes later when Zeki Amdouni fired home from close range following a free-kick.

Burnley had the ball in the net again, but Lyle Foster’s effort was ruled out for offside before Moussa Diaby then added a second for Villa in the 42nd minute.

The visitors were reduced to 10 men in the 56th minute when midfielder Sander Berge was given a second caution for tugging back Douglas Luiz.

Foster, though, hauled Burnley level with 20 minutes left – this time his goal allowed to stand following a VAR review.

Just when it looked like Vincent Kompany’s men would hold out for a welcome point, Aaron Ramsey fouled Jhon Duran to concede an 89th-minute penalty. Luiz sent his spot-kick on to the underside of the crossbar and into the roof of the net to secure another home win for Villa.

In Saturday’s late kick-off, Manchester United were beaten 2-1 at Nottingham Forest, who secured a second straight win for new boss Nuno Espirito Santo. After a low-key first half, Forest went ahead just after the hour when Nicolas Dominguez swept in a low cross from Gonzalo Montiel.

United were level in the 78th minute after a poor clearance from Forest keeper Matt Turner was punished as Alejandro Garnacho squared for Marcus Rashford to equalise.

Forest, though, were back in front again just four minutes later when Morgan Gibbs-White curled a fine strike into the far corner to leave United in seventh place – nine points off the top four.

Manchester City beat Sheffield United 2-0 at the Ethiad Stadium to move third, above Arsenal on goal difference.

Rodri gave City the lead in the 14th minute with a low finish into the bottom corner after good hold-up play by Phil Foden.

Midfielder Jack Grealish – whose Cheshire home had been burgled while he was away playing at Everton on Wednesday night – was taken off early in the second half and replaced by Oscar Bobb.

Julian Alvarez doubled City’s lead just after the hour from close range after Bobb had played in Foden.

Earlier, Chelsea survived a spirited late fightback by Luton to win 3-2 at Kenilworth Road.

Mauricio Pochettino’s team had looked to be cruising to a first away victory since early November following a brace from Cole Palmer – his second goal showing fine close control – either side of Noni Madueke’s strike just before half-time.

Luton, though, set up a tense final 10 minutes after Ross Barkley scored against his former club before Elijah Adebayo pulled another back late on, but the Blues held out.

Michael Olise scored twice as Crystal Palace returned to winning ways after coming from behind to beat Brentford 3-1 at Selhurst Park.

Keane Lewis-Potter fired the Bees into an early lead after just two minutes, the goal given following a lengthy VAR check for a possible offside.

Palace were soon back on level terms in the 14th minute when Olise volleyed in at the back post before Eberechi Eze completed the turnaround shortly before half-time.

Olise fired in a well-taken second from the edge of the penalty area in the 58th minute as Palace ended an eight-match winless run.

Wolves maintained their good form with a 3-0 win over relegation-battlers Everton at Molineux.

Captain Max Kilman put Wolves in front in the 25th minute following a scramble in the penalty area, which was only his second goal for the club. The players celebrated by holding up a shirt in support of Mario Lemina following the death of his father.

Wolves doubled their lead early in the second half through a close-range finish from Matheus Cunha and Craig Dawson added a third on the hour.

Hwang Hee-chan and Pedro Neto both saw goals disallowed for offside as Gary O’Neil’s well-drilled went on to close out a third straight win.

Unai Emery stressed his aim heading into the new year is to get better after Aston Villa concluded their “really fantastic” 2023 with a 3-2 home victory over Burnley.

Douglas Luiz notched the winner against the 10-man Clarets with an 89th-minute penalty as Villa moved level on points with Premier League leaders Liverpool, ahead of the Reds hosting Newcastle on New Year’s Day.

It was the midland outfit’s 26th top-flight win of 2023 and a club-record 32nd victory in all competitions across the calendar year.

And boss Emery, when asked if he thought 2024 could be even better, said: “Always the idea is to improve and get better.

“It was really fantastic, the year we did – but I’m very excited for the next match.

“We have 42 points and we can feel comfortable and happy, but…my expectation for the next year is try to progress. I am going to manage how we can progress.”

He added: “When I arrived here (in late 2022) the message always was get better, try to play Europe, try to be a contender to be in the top 10, in the top seven, now we are top four.

“We are not contented to be in the top seven, top four in the Premier League, but we are in at the moment and if on (match)day 30, 32 we are in, maybe we can think it is our opportunity to get it.”

Villa led at the break thanks to a 42nd-minute Moussa Diaby finish after Leon Bailey’s opener for the hosts had been cancelled out by Zeki Amdouni.

Burnley suffered a further setback with Sander Berge being sent off early in the second half, but it looked as if it could prove a frustrating afternoon for Villa after Lyle Foster drew things level again in the 71st minute.

Luiz then netted from the spot late on following a foul by former Villa man Aaron Ramsey on fellow substitute John Duran, and Emery declared that the “satisfaction is high” with his team having “reacted very well in the first half and the second”.

Aston Villa scored a late penalty to beat strugglers Burnley 3-2 and move second in the Premier League.

Villa – who lost 3-2 at Manchester United on Boxing Day after leading 2-0 – went ahead in the 28th minute through Leon Bailey.

The Clarets were back on level terms just three minutes later when Zeki Amdouni fired home from close range following a free-kick.

Burnley had the ball in the net again, but Lyle Foster’s effort was ruled out for offside before Moussa Diaby then added a second for Villa in the 42nd minute.

The visitors were reduced to 10 men in the 56th minute when midfielder Sander Berge was given a second caution for tugging back Douglas Luiz.

Foster, though, hauled Burnley level with 20 minutes left – this time his goal allowed to stand following a VAR review.

Just when it looked like Vincent Kompany’s men would hold out for a welcome point, Aaron Ramsey fouled Jhon Duran to concede an 89th-minute penalty. Luiz sent his spot-kick on to the underside of the crossbar and into the roof of the net to secure another home win for Villa.

Manchester City beat Sheffield United 2-0 at the Ethiad Stadium to move third, above Arsenal on goal difference.

Rodri gave City the lead in the 14th minute with a low finish into the bottom corner after good hold-up play by Phil Foden.

Midfielder Jack Grealish – whose Cheshire home had been burgled while he was away playing at Everton on Wednesday night – was taken off early in the second half and replaced by Oscar Bobb.

Julian Alvarez doubled City’s lead just after the hour from close range after Bobb had played in Foden.

Earlier, Chelsea survived a spirited late fightback by Luton to win 3-2 at Kenilworth Road.

Mauricio Pochettino’s team had looked to be cruising to a first away victory since early November following a brace from Cole Palmer – his second goal showing fine close control – either side of Noni Madueke’s strike just before half-time.

Luton, though, set up a tense final 10 minutes after Ross Barkley scored against his former club before Elijah Adebayo pulled another back late on, but the Blues held out.

Michael Olise scored twice as Crystal Palace returned to winning ways after coming from behind to beat Brentford 3-1 at Selhurst Park.

Keane Lewis-Potter fired the Bees into an early lead after just two minutes, the goal given following a lengthy VAR check for a possible offside.

Palace were soon back on level terms in the 14th minute when Olise volleyed in at the back post before Eberechi Eze completed the turnaround shortly before half-time.

Olise fired in a well-taken second from the edge of the penalty area in the 58th minute as Palace ended an eight-match winless run.

Wolves maintained their good form with a 3-0 win over relegation-battlers Everton at Molineux.

Captain Max Kilman put Wolves in front in the 25th minute following a scramble in the penalty area, which was only his second goal for the club. The players celebrated by holding up a shirt in support of Mario Lemina following the death of his father.

Wolves doubled their lead early in the second half through a close-range finish from Matheus Cunha and Craig Dawson added a third on the hour.

Hwang Hee-chan and Pedro Neto both saw goals disallowed for offside as Gary O’Neil’s well-drilled went on to close out a third straight win.

Aston Villa moved level on points with Premier League leaders Liverpool as Douglas Luiz’s late penalty secured a 3-2 home win over 10-man Burnley.

Villa led at the break thanks to a Moussa Diaby finish after Leon Bailey’s 28th-minute opener for the hosts had been cancelled out three minutes later by Zeki Amdouni.

Burnley suffered a further setback with Sander Berge sent off early in the second half, but it looked as if it could prove a frustrating afternoon for Villa after Lyle Foster drew things level again in the 71st minute.

Luiz then had the final say, converting from the spot with a minute of normal time remaining, as Unai Emery’s side moved up a place to second in the table, joining Liverpool on 42 points ahead of the Reds hosting Newcastle on New Year’s Day.

The 26th league win of their superb 2023 under Emery saw the midlands outfit bounce back from the 3-2 Boxing Day loss at Manchester United, with normal service resumed at Villa Park after the 1-1 draw with Sheffield United on December 22 had ended a club-record run of 15 consecutive home league wins.

Vincent Kompany’s Burnley, meanwhile, remain second-bottom, five points adrift of safety.

Villa had a couple of opportunities in the opening quarter-hour, with Diaby sending a volley wide and another from Ollie Watkins saved by James Trafford.

Burnley were then forced into an early change as Jordan Beyer was replaced by Hannes Delcroix, before starting to show some threat as Josh Brownhill struck wide and quickly brought a save out of Emiliano Martinez.

Within moments Villa were ahead, Watkins cutting into the box from the left and laying the ball to Bailey who took a touch and fired past Trafford via a deflection.

The lead proved short-lived, with Burnley hitting back almost immediately through Amdouni’s hooked effort after Dara O’Shea had headed a free-kick across goal.

The visitors then had the ball in the net again in the 37th minute, but Foster’s finish was ruled out for offside.

Villa regained the advantage five minutes later with Watkins again the creator, the England striker fashioning the cut-back from which Diaby turned the ball home.

Following Foster and Amdouni efforts saved by Martinez either side of the interval, Burnley were reduced to 10 men in the 56th minute when Berge collected a second yellow card having tugged at the shirt of Luiz.

Diaby curled over soon after before Foster prodded wide following a possible handball by Diego Carlos just outside the box that brought no action from referee Stuart Attwell.

Villa cranked up the pressure as Trafford denied John McGinn and Diaby before Luiz, Jacob Ramsey and Diaby, twice, shot off target.

The hosts were then left ruing that as Foster held off Alex Moreno and fired in for his first goal since returning to action after an eight-match absence in which he had been receiving care for his mental health.

It appeared as if Villa’s wastefulness might cost them, but as stoppage time drew near a challenge by former Villa man Aaron Ramsey on fellow substitute Jhon Duran prompted Attwell to point to the spot and Luiz converted the penalty with a shot that bounced down off the bar to ensure a fine calendar year ended on a high for Emery’s team.

Aston Villa's head coach, Unai Emery, has moved to calm concerns over the fitness of Jamaican sensation Leon Bailey after the winger was substituted at halftime during their pivotal 1-0 victory over Arsenal at Villa Park.

Bailey, who provided the crucial assist for John McGinn's seventh-minute goal, raised eyebrows when he did not emerge from the tunnel for the second half.

Emery addressed the situation in the post-match press conference, providing insight into Bailey's condition. Despite the initial worry among Villa fans, Emery hinted that fatigue rather than injury might be the reason for the substitution.

"He was tired, completely tired! Hopefully, he's not injured, but I don't know exactly," Emery reassured, offering a glimmer of hope regarding Bailey's well-being.

Bailey's impactful performance against Arsenal came on the heels of his winning goal against Manchester City last Wednesday night. His ability to make a difference in crucial matches has quickly endeared him to Villa supporters.

However, the Jamaican international has battled injury concerns since joining Aston Villa from Bayer Leverkusen in the summer of 2021. Despite these challenges, Bailey has remarkably missed just one league match throughout the season, sitting out the 6-1 win over Brighton and Hove Albion back in September.

The timing of Bailey's potential setback raises questions about his availability for the upcoming Europa Conference League clash against Zrinjski on Thursday night.

The hope is that Bailey's early substitution against Arsenal was a precautionary measure to manage fatigue rather than a recurrence of his injury struggles. As Villa pursues success on multiple fronts, including European competition, the fitness of key players like Leon Bailey remains a critical factor in their aspirations for a successful campaign.

CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani believes next year's Copa America will serve as perfect preparation for the 2026 World Cup.

Joining the 10 South American teams in the 2024 Copa America, which will be held in the United States, will be six teams from CONCACAF.

The USA, Mexico, Jamaica and Panama are already assured of their places in the tournament, with Costa Rica or Honduras and Canada or Trinidad and Tobago to take the remaining two spots.

With the expanded, 48-team World Cup in 2026 also taking place in North America, CONCACAF president Montagliani hopes the Copa America presents the perfect opportunity for the federation's teams to prepare.

"It's evidence of when leadership and two very important confederations come together and put football first. The game is going to win here because you're going to have a great tournament next year," Montagliani told Concacaf.com.

"I think we realised early on that we needed to make sure that we made our own competitions better, like our Nations League, our Gold Cup.

"This was an opportunity, after speaking with my counterpart, Alejandro Dominguez, to come together and partner with them, not just on the men's side like we have now with Copa America, but also on the women's side with a Women's Gold Cup.

"This fits in well with our strategy to increase not only the quantity of competitions, but also the quality of competitions, and this will help our teams prepare for the World Cup in our backyard.

"FIFA is also going to have the Club World Cup here in 2025 and I think from a fan's perspective, I'm not sure we've ever had this, so it's a great time to be involved in the game, at whatever level you are.

"I think it's a bit of a coming out party for our region. Obviously, we've struggled in the past at many levels, but I think, as I said a long time ago, for the work we've done in the last six years, we deserve the right to think long-term.

"We also now deserve the right to enjoy the present and all the football that is coming our way."

Reigning Copa and world champions Argentina were placed in Group A in Thursday's draw, alongside Peru, Chile and Canada or Trinidad and Tobago. The USA will face Uruguay, Panama and Bolivia in Group C, while Brazil will go up against Colombia, Paraguay and Costa Rica or Honduras in Group D.

Two CONCACAF teams should also fancy their chances of progressing from Group B, with Mexico and Jamaica – who count the likes of Leon Bailey, Michail Antonio and Demarai Gray in their squad – going up against Venezuela and Ecuador.

The draw opened up as such that another Argentina-Brazil final could be on the cards.

Unai Emery was trying to keep a lid on the excitement levels after his Aston Villa side outclassed stuttering Manchester City in Wednesday’s 1-0 win to move above the defending champions and into third place.

Leon Bailey’s deflected strike in the 74th minute was enough to seal a 14th straight home win for Villa and add to the growing sense of belief that something special is brewing in the west Midlands.

Pep Guardiola declared that Emery’s side should “definitely” be considered among the title contenders after watching his depleted side struggle to contain a Villa team who had 22 shots at goal to City’s two.

But Emery played down any title talk and insisted there is still much work to do in developing his side, who face leaders Arsenal at home on Saturday.

“We created lots of chances and we controlled the attack in the high press,” Emery said. “We were believing. In my career, hopefully more in the next weeks, months and years I can continue improving as a coach and with the team I am trying to build.

“(The performance) was fantastic but we must keep a balance. The dressing room is happy, but the next challenge is on Saturday. (On Thursday) we are focusing again on Saturday.”

Wednesday night was Emery’s 50th game in charge. When the Spaniard arrived a little more than a year ago, Villa were near the foot of the table and fearing a relegation battle but he took them into the Europa Conference League and now the Champions League looks a genuine possibility.

Asked to reflect on his first 50 games, Emery pointed to last February, when back-to-back 4-2 home defeats at the hands of Leicester and Arsenal offered a learning moment.

“I can come back in my mind and think how we were when we started this process,” he said. “We lost against Leicester and Arsenal at home, 4-2. We couldn’t concede eight goals in two matches at home like we did.

“It was a key moment when we reacted in a meeting with the players, focusing more our idea and our style, building and being very demanding in it. I think the players, they reacted very well and the way we did, we started doing in that moment, I think we are still being very demanding and keeping it.”

City boss Pep Guardiola was full of praise for Villa’s performance but admitted he needed to change the dynamic of his own side, now winless in four league outings as they lose ground in their title defence.

The absence of Rodri and Jack Grealish through suspension, plus the loss of Jeremy Doku to injury, limited Guardiola’s options and they lost the midfield battle.

“In the first half, we struggled to follow what we spoke (about),” Guardiola said. “We adjusted something at half-time and it was much better and the team had a better dynamic but we didn’t find the players to make the assist or cross or pass.”

“We didn’t have the feeling that we are going to do something and we missed it…We have to accept it when a team is better and recognise it.

“We have to change the dynamic on Sunday at Luton.”

Unai Emery insisted it was too soon to call his Aston Villa side Premier League title contenders after a 1-0 win over Manchester City lifted them above the defending champions and into third place.

Leon Bailey’s deflected strike in the 74th minute proved to be the winner as Villa equalled a club record with a 14th consecutive home victory.

Pep Guardiola said Villa could “definitely” be among those still in the fight come the end of the season but Emery insisted they still have much work to do to catch up with the likes of City, Arsenal and Liverpool.

“We are not contenders,” he said.

“There are seven teams who are contenders more than us. Now we are on game 15. We are going to play game 16 on Saturday against Arsenal and we are going to focus on it. We are happy to be third but to keep it is going to be very, very difficult.

“While we are there we are going to try to keep it. If we keep progressing during the season, playing matches and winning like we are doing maybe we can be a contender but I think we need more time.

“We can believe but we are not contenders. There are another seven teams and that didn’t change. It is game 15. Maybe by game 30 or 32, but not yet.”

The win gave Emery his first over Guardiola as a rival coach at the 14th attempt, 15 years to the day since they first came up against one another.

“Always I like to prepare matches against the best teams, the best players and the best coaches,” Emery said.

“When you are playing in a high level the opponents are of a high level. But beating him for me is not something special. It is really a process I am doing as a coach.”

Defeat left City winless in their last four league matches, down in fourth place and six points off the pace of leaders Arsenal.

Guardiola said the credit belonged to Villa on the night but admitted he had much to think about to get their title defence back on track.

“The better team won,” Guardiola said.

“Aston Villa was better than us. We struggled. It was really difficult. They are well organised, fast and physical players, they are able to control many aspects. That is the reason why they are up there. They played good football and we could not do it.

“It is my duty, it is my job to find a way to come back. Many years now we are together we found a way, we are able to find a way to win games, to find a way to do it.

“Now that we are struggling we have to change the dynamic, win as soon as possible, Luton, Crystal Palace, to change our mind and continue to win there.”

The absence of the suspended Rodri was again telling. This was the fourth match of the season the Spain midfielder has missed through a ban – and City have lost all four.

While there are other key players out – Jack Grealish, Jeremy Doku and of course Kevin De Bruyne – City’s reliance on their midfield holder is obvious.

“Without Rodri we could not win against Liverpool and Spurs, of course Rodri is so important but when Rodri is not there we have to find a way to do it,” Guardiola said.

“Today is simple, the better team won, you have to accept it. In football it happens. I said (to the players), ‘I know you tried, I know you want it, you have proven it to me many many times’.

“Now the results are not good, that’s why I have to see the games, reflect, and see how we try to do it.”

Unai Emery saluted Ollie Watkins after he scored a superb 90th-minute equaliser to salvage a 2-2 draw at Bournemouth.

Watkins was facing backwards when he nodded in substitute Moussa Diaby’s cross as Villa twice came from behind to rescue a share of the spoils.

Villa boss Emery said: “He’s strong. When he’s feeling good physically he can play matches in a row like we are playing.

“It’s a very good point. I am very happy with the performance.

“We have to build a team and I am trying to give everyone chances.

“They have to feel important and playing with personality and get stronger, not only the first 11 but the squad.”

Bournemouth took the lead in the 10th minute through a neat finish from Antoine Semenyo after Diego Carlos was too casual playing out from the back and passed the ball straight to Ryan Christie.

Villa drew level in the 20th minute as Leon Bailey picked up possession on the right wing before cutting in on his left foot and curling into the far corner.

Solanke restored Bournemouth’s advantage seven minutes into the second half as he fired Bournemouth back in front with his seventh goal of the season after turning away from Pau Torres and rifling home.

Emi Martinez then denied Solanke from point blank range before Villa substitute Jhon Duran hit the post with a deflected shot.

But just as Bournemouth looked to be holding out for the win, up stepped the in-form Watkins to bag his 13th goal of the season.

Bournemouth boss Andoni Iraola saluted top-scorer Solanke, but was frustrated his side could not hold out for a third straight Premier League win.

Iraola said: “It is a hard one to take because before for the game you would take a point against Villa, but considering how the team played and the chances we had we cannot be happy.

“In the end we could not score the third goal even though we had clear chances and we also have to congratulate their goalkeeper who made two or three spectacular saves.

“After the start of the season we needed to improve and we’ve been doing that.

“We are understanding each other better and the players are physically in a good place. It is obvious we are playing better than we were.

“They are winning duels against tough opposition, but we have to continue because this is a good level from us and it’s only enough for one point.

“At this moment in time it is a matter of improving collectively. Today Dom scored one very good goal with good movement from a number nine and he had two very close chances, but their goalkeeper was amazing.

“He read the situations very well and he has had three or four very clear chances, which is a good sign for the team for him personally. I hope he continues at this level.”

Jamaica's senior Reggae Boyz achieved what will be remembered as one of the most remarkable comebacks in Concacaf Nations League history, as they stunned Canada 3-2 in a lively second-leg League A quarterfinal encounter, at BMO Field in Toronto, on Tuesday night.

Spurred by a brace from Shamar Nicholson, who scored in the 63rd and 66th minutes to take his international tally to 16 goals, and a 78th-minute Bobby Reid penalty, the Jamaicans overturned a 1-2 deficit to win on the away goal rule. The tie ended 4-4 on aggregate.

Alphonso Davies (25th) and Ismael Kone (69th) got Canada's goals.

Heimir Hallgrimsson's side in the process of securing their spot in the Nations League semi-finals, as well as the prestigious CONMEBOL Copa America 2024, rewrote the history books, as it was their first ever victory on Canadian soil, and the first time that the Caribbean side was scoring three goals against a North American opponent on their turf.

The Reggae Boyz are now set to lock horns against United States in one semi-final, in March, while Mexico, who overturned a two-goal deficit and defeated Honduras 4-2 on penalty, will meet Panama in the other, much like they did in this year's Gold Cup final.

Meanwhile, Canada will face Trinidad and Tobago in one Play-In fixture, while Costa Rica and Honduras will meet in the other. The winner of those Play-In contests will qualify for next year's Copa America.

After taking a 2-1 lead in their rain-interrupted first-leg clash at the National Stadium, Canada pressed that ascendancy at the start in the packed BMO Field and could have easily extended their advantage in the first 15 minutes, but for two incredible saves from Jamaica's goalkeeper Andre Blake.

The host inevitably got their breakthrough when Davies met a cross from the left and fired a shot that was initially deflected by Blake but spun backward into net.

Jamaica needed a response and minutes after should have pulled level after the re-start, but Leon Bailey's dry spell in the national setup continued, as he slammed his left-footed shot into crossbar.

The equalizer eventually came three minutes past the hour when Damion Lowe showed grit to dispossess an opponent and slipped a pass through for Nicholson, who rifled a right-footer past Canada's custodian Milan Borjan.

With the momentum now in their favour, the Jamaicans took the lead three minutes later on a well-worked counterattack in which Reid found Demarai Gray, and the former Everton mam swept a pass across the 18-yard yard box for the towering Nicholson to finish from close range.

However, their celebrations were short-lived, as Canada regained the advantage on aggregate soon after when Davies served up a cross for Kone to steer past Blake.

Still, the Jamaicans pressed and got the golden opportunity to not only pull level, but more importantly go ahead on the away goal rule, when Stephen Eustaquio handled an intended cross from Lowe inside the danger area. Reid stepped up to take the pressure-packed 12-yard kick and calmly converted to silent the home fans, while the small section of Jamaican supporters went into frenzy.

From there, Jamaica only needed to defend their lines and if that wasn't pressure enough, given their tendency to concede late goals, the task became even more difficult when Gray was shown a second yellow and given marching orders in the 84th minute.

Despite the numerical disadvantage, the Boyz managed to absorb all that Canada threw at them in the final minutes plus nine minutes of added time to snare a momentous victory.

 

Coach Heimir Halgrimsson has named a strong 24-man squad for the Reggae Boyz CONCACAFDi Nations League quarter-final match-up against Canada, the first leg of which is to be played on Friday, November 17 at the National Stadium in Kingston.

The squad features a potent attacking line-up that includes the in-form Leon Bailey and Demarai Gray, Michail Antonio, Shamar Nicholson, Romario Williams and Trivante Stewart.

The midfield contingent is comprised of Demario Phillips, Bobby De Cordova Reid, Daniel Johnson, Joel Latibeaudiere, Jon Russell and Karoy Anderson.

In-form defender Ethan Pinnock makes a return to the side joining Damien Lowe, Di Shon Bernard, Michael Hector, Dexter Lembikisa, Tayvon Gray, Greg Leigh, Amari’i Bell and Javain Brown.

The outstanding Andre Blake is the first-choice custodian with the capable Amal Knight and Jahmai Waite as his backups.

The second leg of the tie has been scheduled for the BMO Stadium on November 21.

Ollie Watkins came to Aston Villa’s rescue as Unai Emery’s side hit back to beat AZ Alkmaar.

The striker celebrated his England call-up to nod in with nine minutes left for a 2-1 win and put Villa on the brink of the Europa Conference League knockout stages.

Diego Carlos’ controversial goal – heading in a corner which should have never been given – quickly cancelled out Vangelis Pavlidis’ opener.

Victory left Villa joint-top of Group E, behind Legia Warsaw on their head-to-head record, knowing a point from their final two games would guarantee progress.

Legia’s 2-0 win over Zrinjski Mostar earlier on Thursday had put the Polish side three points clear in the group.

Villa knew victory would virtually secure second spot and their superiority was telling early, the hosts thinking they had the lead after just three minutes.

Ezri Konsa’s shot was deflected behind and, from the corner, Watkins header was cleared off the line by Pavlidis. The ball ran to Leon Bailey and his cross was nodded in by Clement Lenglet – only for VAR to rule the goal out with Bailey offside.

Lenglet almost gifted Alkmaar an opener, though, when Pavlidis seized on his loose pass and tried to lob Emi Martinez before horribly misjudging Ibrahim Sadiq’s superb cross.

Mat Ryan tipped Youri Tielemans’ shot behind as Villa looked to regain some momentum but there would have been frustration for Emery as their early edge slipped away.

Alkmaar even had their own goal disallowed three minutes before the break when a neat move ended with Pavlidis tapping in, although the striker was comfortably offside.

The striker then tested Martinez after Villa played themselves into trouble as the visitors ended the half on top.

It proved a warning sign as, six minutes into the second half, the striker opened the scoring with a goal of pure simplicity.

Villa were caught out by Riechedly Bazoer’s ball over the top as Pavlidis ran clear of Lengent and beat Martinez for his 15th goal of the season.

Alkmaar had something to cling to, having been 3-0 down at the same stage in the Netherlands two weeks ago, and Yuki Sugawara’s shot deflected wide.

Yet Villa contentiously levelled after an hour. Lucas Digne’s cross was blazed over by Boubacar Kamara but referee Luis Godinho inexplicably gave a corner.

Somewhat inevitably, when Bailey delivered the ball Diego Carlos nodded in.

It gave Villa renewed confidence and, with time running out, Watkins grabbed the winner when he stole in ahead of Jordy Clasie to nod in Douglas Luiz’s fine pass.

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