Unai Emery insists Aston Villa must learn how to handle European football and refused to blame his changes after their sloppy 3-2 defeat at Legia Warsaw.

Ernest Muci’s second-half winner clinched a deserved victory for the hosts to ruin Villa’s Europa Conference League debut.

Jhon Duran and Lucas Digne twice levelled for the underwhelming visitors in the first half after Pawel Wszolek and Muci scored for Legia.

It ranked as one of the worst performances in Emery’s 11 months in charge, with the manager making five changes, including giving a debut to Barcelona loanee Clement Lenglet.

He said: “I believe in our squad and our players and we could have lost this game with other players on the pitch.

“Every match away in Europe is difficult and this is a new step where we have to learn.

“We still have the possibility to react again, we are going to play another five matches. It’s not a good result but we have to learn and have to understand how we’re going to face the next matches and this competition.

“We have to build the squad who will play a lot of matches and we will need players in the squad to give them opportunities to play, to use their qualities.

“In the second half we started well but in one click, we concede another opportunity and they score a goal.

“They had a plan, they did good and we couldn’t stop them in some moments.”

Legia struck after just two minutes in the Group E opener when Wszolek converted Patryk Kun’s cross.

Duran levelled four minutes later, though, nodding in after Kacper Tobiasz turned Nicolo Zaniolo’s drive onto the bar.

It should have given Villa a platform but a shoddy, slow, performance continued to undermine their tag as one of the tournament favourites.

Livewire Muci punished them again after 26 minutes when Villa were left floundering on the flanks and he fired in Wszolek’s centre.

But Villa came back, however undeserved, and Digne’s deflected volley ensured they went into the break level.

Parity did not last long, though, when Muci went sent running at Ezri Konsa and Calum Chambers, made fools of them both and found the net off a post.

This time there was no way back and Marc Gual almost added a fourth when Emi Martinez parried Bartosz Slisz’s shot and Chambers cleared.

Jacob Ramsey, Moussa Diaby and Youri Tielemans tried to find an unlikely leveller but victorious Legia held on.

“You should not underestimate the underdogs, Mostar will also be a hot game, a Balkan team with a lot of emotions,” said boss Kosta Runjaic, after Mostar beat AZ Alkmaar 4-3 in the other group game.

“It’s surprise for me but it’s also a surprise we won against Aston Villa, I’m happy about it, this three points in the first game are very important for us. We were lucky in some moments but you need luck.

“We will see how we do in the next game, we will face a very ugly Alkmaar in a couple of weeks.”

Aston Villa's remarkable resurgence in the English Premier League was epitomized by the sensational performance of Jamaica's Leon Bailey, who played a pivotal role in Villa's resounding 4-0 victory over Everton on Sunday.

Bailey's exceptional contributions, including a goal and an assist, left Villa coach Unai Emery visibly impressed and hopeful for the team's future prospects.

The Jamaican international's standout performance showcased his versatility and impact on the field. His display against Everton stood in stark contrast to the disappointing opening day defeat at Newcastle, where he had been taken off at half-time. Bailey's partnership with fellow forward Moussa Diaby was particularly noteworthy, with their seamless link-up play capturing the attention of fans and critics alike.

Addressing the media, Emery highlighted the importance of balance and adaptability in the team's approach, emphasizing the improvement in synergy between Diaby and Bailey. He remarked, "Each match is very different and we need to keep the balance playing both home and away. Last week was not very good between Diaby and Bailey, and today was much better. We need to continue working because Diaby needs time to connect with his teammates. Leon Bailey, last week he didn't play well but today he was amazing."

Bailey's contribution in Villa's dominant victory was evident from the start. He provided the assist for John McGinn's volley that opened the scoring after just 18 minutes. Furthermore, Bailey's clever header set up Ollie Watkins, leading to a penalty awarded after a foul by Everton keeper Jordan Pickford. Douglas Luiz confidently converted the spot-kick to double Villa's lead.

In the early stages of the second half, Bailey once again demonstrated his prowess by capitalizing on a defensive error by Michael Keane, netting his own goal past Pickford. The victory was sealed with a flourish when substitute Jhon Duran capitalized on another defensive lapse to secure his first Premier League goal, extending Villa's lead to an impressive 4-0.

Despite the resounding victory, Emery maintained a pragmatic perspective, acknowledging that there's room for improvement. He praised the team's adeptness at imposing their style of play and nullifying the opposition's threats, particularly in transition. The coach also dedicated the victory to injured players Emi Buendia and Tyrone Mings, highlighting their absence as a source of motivation for the team.

Aston Villa midfielder John McGinn admits having the chance to qualify for Europe for the first time in more than a decade is something which they did not think was possible six months ago.

Manager Unai Emery took over from Steven Gerrard in late October with the club 15th in the Premier League but after a 1-1 draw at Anfield their destiny remains in their own hands in terms of securing a spot in the Europa Conference League.

McGinn, who said “every day is a school day” under the Spaniard, accepts that possibility seemed remote at the start of winter.

“It’s been the aim since day one. The owners have had a remit to get us back playing European football,” he said.

“If you’d said to us back in November ‘you’d be three points away’ then you’d have laughed. We have got three points to get to get us back.

“This club deserves to be in the top 10, we’ve managed to secure that for the first time in a long, long while.

“Now it’s about building, getting into Europe hopefully and build from there.”

McGinn said the transformation under Emery, who has won 14 and lost just six of his 24 matches in charge, had been remarkable.

And he believed their performance and experience at Anfield against a team desperately trying to attain Champions League qualification would stand them in good stead if they do indeed qualify for Europe.

“It was a test for us, it was a challenge. If we want to play in Europe, we need to come to places like this and get results,” he added.

“We’ve given ourselves a huge opportunity next week (at home to Brighton) and hopefully we take it.

“It’s in our hands now and we know three points will get us European football.

“The manager has touched on it, he has a lot of experience of European football, I’m sure everyone involved in the club will be so focused this week to make sure that’s a reality.

“He will have an obsession this week on how to beat Brighton. I think if you ask any player who has worked with him this year he has been an absolute pleasure.

“He’s made myself better, he’s made other players better. Every day is a school day, I keep saying it.

“I’m not used to his style of football, the Spanish way. I’ve always had British ex-pros who were all brilliant for me, brilliant for my career but he’s certainly showing me a different side of football and one I’m certainly enjoying.

“I feel as if I’ve got so much left to learn but, even at 28, there’s so much more learning to do. Hopefully the progress can continue and myself and others can continue to improve.”

Unai Emery said he has plenty more to offer as Aston Villa boss after being nominated for the Premier League manager of the season award.

Emery has overseen an impressive transformation at Villa Park since replacing Steven Gerrard in October last year, lifting them from fifth-bottom to the brink of European football next season.

The 51-year-old Spaniard is on a six-man shortlist for the managerial award, alongside Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola, Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta, Brighton’s Roberto De Zerbi, Newcastle’s Eddie Howe and Fulham boss Marco Silva.

When asked about his nomination, Emery told a press conference: “We want to take some trophies or be respected for our work, but I’m trying to be focused every day on getting better and trying to improve.

“Our way here has only just started and I’ve only been here for 10 per cent of the time I want to be here, trying to improve, trying to build a strong project and get our objectives. For now, I’m proud of everybody here.”

Villa have won 14 and lost only six of his 26 top-flight games in charge and remain in contention for the final Europa League spot.

Emery, a four-time Europa League winner as manager with Sevilla (three times) and Villarreal, and also a runner-up with Arsenal, is renowned for an intense approach to his work.

He said: “I always try to enjoy my work, and I do enjoy it every day. I feel passion for my work.

“When we are playing and facing big challenges every week, every month, every year, you have to be very focused and spend a lot of time on getting the best results possible.

“When I can have two days off, I enjoy it and I’m trying to take my mind out of my work – not completely, but I enjoy doing different things.

“When I am focused here, preparing the training sessions, preparing for matches, trying to complete our work, of course I am spending a lot of hours here.”

Villa are level on points with seventh-placed Tottenham, who occupy the Europa Conference League berth, after last week’s 2-1 win against the Londoners and play at Champions League hopefuls Liverpool on Saturday.

Emery said he was relishing the challenge at Anfield, adding: “They have very high-level players and a good bench to use in the second half, and they also have a very good coach in (Jurgen) Klopp.

“The crowd there are supporting them a lot. That is what we are going to face. I want to play against them, preparing the match and taking our moments.

“We want to be successful, more than them in 90 minutes. That is the difficulty we are going to face. We need to be clinical.”

Unai Emery says Aston Villa are determined to grasp the possible “last opportunity” of European football next season.

Villa have slipped to eighth in the Premier League after back-to-back away defeats to Manchester United and Wolves, eight points behind fifth-placed Liverpool with three games remaining.

But overtaking sixth-placed Tottenham remains very much a target, and that would happen as early as Saturday if Villa could beat them at home by three goals.

Boss Emery said: “We’re three points behind Tottenham, everybody wants to enjoy this moment and play this match with the supporters.

“The last two matches against Manchester and Wolves we lost, but it’s not changed our good moments we are taking at home with our supporters.

“We deserve this opportunity because the last five matches we won at home and those 15 points have helped us be here.

“We have to be positive, to be happy and very focused because it could be the last opportunity.

“Or maybe it could be a very good opportunity to keep playing key matches, where me as a coach and the players can improve and build and take challenges in the new direction.

“We are playing for one place in Europe and playing against teams like Tottenham, Liverpool and Brighton.

“They are different teams but they’re amongst the biggest teams in the Premier League this year.”

Emery took charge at the start of November with Villa in free fall.

They had won only two of their first 11 league games under Steven Gerrard before his sacking.

Emery brought in defender Alex Moreno and striker Jhon Duran during the January transfer window, but the Spaniard has largely been working with players who served under Gerrard and he is likely to strengthen the squad this summer.

“The club is working to try to build and create a great way for the progression and the next years,” said Emery.

“Of course, we are trying to use my experiences as well to build with the players we have now and the work we’re doing here.

“The club will work thinking about the next year, but we have to be focused 100 per cent on the next match because the football is now.”

Villa have rattled off five home wins – against Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, Nottingham Forest, Newcastle and Fulham – since losing to Arsenal on February 18.

Emery said: “We were very successful away and were competitive. We started to have some doubts at home before the last five matches we won.

“And now it’s exactly different. At home we’re feeling very strong and competitive and we’re winning difficult matches and playing very well.

“Away in the last three matches we haven’t been playing like we have been doing. That is one issue I’m working on and analysing with the players.

“Overall we are making very good progress individually and collectively as a team.”

Aston Villa boss Unai Emery has told Tottenham that qualifying for the Champions League is far tougher than it was before.

Villa host Spurs on Saturday with the two sides still in the hunt for European football next season, but with hopes of claiming a top-four Premier League place all but over for both.

Tottenham – Champions League finalists in 2019 who reached the round of 16 this season – are sixth, six points behind fourth-placed Manchester United having played a game more.

Eighth-placed Villa’s late bid to break into the top four was ended by successive 1-0 away defeats to United and Wolves over the last fortnight.

“Their expectation in the beginning was to be in the top four,” ex-Arsenal boss Emery said of his former North London neighbours.

“It’s now more difficult than it was five to 10 years ago. There are now seven teams trying to be in the top four.

“Maybe Aston Villa now as well. It’s more difficult.”

Tottenham’s search for a first trophy since League Cup success in 2008 has seen them turn to Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte since Mauricio Pochettino’s departure in November 2019.

Neither Mourinho nor Conte, both perennial winners, could sprinkle their stardust on Spurs and caretaker boss Ryan Mason now has the task of trying to secure European football next season.

Mason’s three matches in charge so far have produced a win, a draw and a defeat, with the latest game being a 1-0 home victory over Crystal Palace.

Emery said: “Tottenham have had some problems in the last month but they have very good players.

“The last match they played against Palace they kept good balance tactically and they have very powerful players in the transition, being strong defensively.

“They have very good players who can make different tactical decisions.

“The last matches against them at home here, (Villa) have struggled and it’s now a challenge to get a good performance at home.

“We have to believe in our players, in our tactical way we are progressing. That is the match on Saturday.

“To play a great match, spirit and playing and trying to get at them. They have a three-goal difference with us but our mind is to be very competitive and to get better.”

Villa quartet Boubacar Kamara, Leon Bailey, Matty Cash and Philippe Coutinho are all available.

“It’s the first time in the last month we have everybody ready to be in the squad for Saturday,” Emery said.

“Only Jed Steer is out but Cash, Kamara, Bailey, Coutinho – in the last match they were in the squad but not ready 100 per cent to play.

“Some players are still not ready to play 90 minutes, but they’re ready to be in the squad and ready to play.”

Aston Villa boss Unai Emery says he has been “pushing” Tuesday’s match-winner against Fulham Tyrone Mings to score more goals.

Mings headed home John McGinn’s corner in the 21st minute for his first goal for the club since November 2021 to clinch a 1-0 win at Villa Park.

Emery said of the defender: “Each time we were preparing set-pieces, I am pushing him, I was telling him, ‘You are a tall player and we have to use you, and you have to believe in yourself. You have to do it.’

“(Tuesday) was very good because we won 1-0, and it’s through him. It is important to add it.

“We must add players scoring goals, not only strikers, wingers, midfielders – as well, at set-pieces, our centre-backs and we are happy for him. We are adding the possibility to win in other ways.”

Mings’ partner at centre-back Ezri Konsa told VillaTV with a smile: “It was about time one of us scored.

“I’m very happy for him, the manager’s been getting on to me and Tyrone. On Monday he said if one of us doesn’t score he’s going to kill us! I guess Tyrone listened and he got the goal, I’m happy for him.”

Beating Fulham, their eighth win in a 10-game unbeaten streak, continued Villa’s push for Europe as they moved up to fifth place in the Premier League with five matches to go.

Since losing 3-0 at Fulham in October and sacking boss Steven Gerrard shortly after, with the team lying 17th in the table with two wins from 11 games, Villa’s season has undergone a remarkable transformation under his successor Emery.

They began with a 3-1 victory over Manchester United, their next opponents at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Emery’s 20 league games in charge – his side have scored at least once in every one – include 13 wins and only four losses.

Asked if he was surprised by the extent of the turnaround, Emery said: “I’m not surprised. I think we had to practise, we had to be demanding, and Tyrone Mings – he wants to improve. I think the players are being humble, to practise more, to get information, try to learn.

“I am telling them, ‘I am learning with you, I am watching the match and you are teaching me as well, and of course I have to support you, to help you as well, with my experiences’. I try to do it, but they have to be committed doing it, and they are doing it. And when we are winning, they can believe more.”

Fulham, who stayed ninth, managed only one shot on goal during the contest, Andreas Pereira’s acrobatic effort wide that came in the opening minute.

The Cottagers suffered the disruption of Willian having to withdraw from the starting XI after feeling a hamstring issue in the warm-up and Harry Wilson then being substituted in the 17th minute due to illness.

Boss Marco Silva said: “You are talking about the two best players the last two games we played, Willian against Everton away (a 3-1 win), and last game against Leeds (a 2-1 win) Harry was the best player on the pitch.

“Of course it’s not the best thing, but it will not be an excuse, because the players that came in, it was a moment for them to pop up and show their quality.”

Unai Emery was "so happy" to see Aston Villa scramble a 1-1 draw at Brentford after losing World Cup-winning goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez to illness at half-time.

Sickly Argentina shot-stopper Martinez started the game at the Brentford Community Stadium but was replaced by Robin Olsen at the break.

When Olsen conceded in the 65th minute as Ivan Toney converted Bryan Mbeumo's cross, it was looking like being an afternoon to forget for sixth-placed Villa, but they rallied for what could be a priceless Premier League point.

Douglas Luiz slotted their 87th-minute leveller, and although Villa's five-match winning run ground to a halt, the result in west London was one that satisfied head coach Emery.

He told BBC Sport: "For 90 minutes we didn't control the game. It was a very difficult time. Only two teams have won here this season. Our game plan was to be strong in our mentality for 90 minutes.

"We didn't create big chances, but we were defending well. Our reaction in the last 15 minutes was very good."


Emery said his players must look to recover from a tough afternoon against the Bees in order to be at their sharpest for Tuesday's home game against Fulham.

"Brentford made it difficult," Emery added. "We are very demanding, but we have to understand the matches being difficult. I told the players I'm so happy with this draw because it was difficult.

"We can play better and we have to demand to play better for the next matches. Today here we tried to keep our game plan strong."

Emery made the point that Villa have set up the chance to earn a European place, and must now kick that ball over the line.

They have scored in all 19 of their Premier League games under Emery's leadership, which is the longest consecutive scoring run any team has had from the start of a manager's tenure in the competition's history.

"The most important thing was our reaction. Try to compete and be a candidate to play in Europe," Emery said. "We're there. Now is the key moment, the difficult moment, to get to the next step."

Regarding Martinez, Emery is hopeful the goalkeeper's discomfort will prove to be just a fleeting problem.

"Before the match, the last meal, he was feeling bad with his stomach," Emery said. "He started the match and played the first half."

By the break, Martinez "wasn't feeling good", said Emery, who added: "Hopefully he'll recover for the next match."

Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe said he was "not really looking for positives" but instead "for a response" after his side's 3-0 loss at Aston Villa.

OIlie Watkins continued his superb form for Villa as Unai Emery's team claimed a fifth straight Premier League win on Saturday.

Third-placed Newcastle were second-best throughout at Villa Park, with Villa leading the way in shots (15 to eight), attempts on target (six to two) and expected goals (1.87 to 0.57). Indeed, the hosts also hit the woodwork twice and had a goal disallowed.

It snapped a five-game winning streak for Newcastle, who suffered their heaviest defeat in the league since losing 5-0 to Manchester City in May of last year.

With a home game against top-four rivals Tottenham next up, Howe wants a reaction.

Speaking to BBC Sport, Howe said: "We were off our best levels right from the start. Aston Villa are a good team and we never got going.

"We've been consistently excellent this season, this is the first dip we've had; it can happen and we have to react.

"We were just off it in every respect. We've got a massive game next week. I'm not really looking for positives, I'm looking for a response."

Villa, meanwhile, have won five Premier League games on the bounce for the first time since the 1997-98 campaign.

The win moved them onto 50 points from 31 games, which is the earliest they have reached this total since the 2009-10 season, when they finished sixth, the position they will occupy for at least another week, just six points off the Champions League places.

Watkins was again their main man, netting a second-half double after teeing up Jacob Ramsey's opener. Since the restart following the World Cup, the former Brentford striker has been involved in more Premier League goals than any other player (15).

"We are on a great run at the moment we are playing good football," Watkins told BT Sport.

"Newcastle are a great side so it shows the levels we are at. We are enjoying it at the moment.

"[We are] trusting team-mates in tight areas and if we make mistakes we go again. Real togetherness in the team and looking forward to games to come."

Chelsea slipped to a first loss in five games as goals for Ollie Watkins and John McGinn helped Aston Villa seal a 2-0 win in the Premier League on Saturday.

Watkins stunned the hosts early on with a lobbed first-half finish before his captain fired home a magnificent long-range effort close to the hour mark.

Defeat saw Graham Potter's previously resurgent hosts stutter at Stamford Bridge, leaving them five points off the top seven and potential European qualification.

For Unai Emery's visitors though, the result lifts them above their opponents and keeps them in with an outside shout of a surprise continental berth.

Chelsea rode their luck when McGinn rattled the crossbar with a fine volley, but they were less fortunate in the 18th minute.

A mix-up between Marc Cucurella and Kalidou Koulibaly allowed Watkins to dart in and lift a finish over the bemused Kepa.

Ben Chilwell thought he had an equaliser in first-half injury time when his header beat Emiliano Martinez at the left post, but referee Andy Madley chalked it off for a shove on Ashley Young in the build-up.

Matters worsened for the Blues in the 56th minute, as they failed to clear a corner and McGinn punished them with a sensational strike through a crowded box to double the deficit.

The hosts turned to N'Golo Kante, in his first appearance since last August, in an attempt to drag themselves back into the fight.

Yet Villa refused to simply sit back and see this one out, continuing to challenge their increasingly haggard opponents until the final whistle confirmed an impressive triumph.

Chelsea have been handed a boost as head coach Graham Potter prepares to welcome Reece James and N'Golo Kante back from injury for their Premier League game against Aston Villa.

Having played the last six minutes in England's 2-1 away win against Italy, James withdrew from the England squad with an injury but has been training with Chelsea since.

Kante has not featured since August after suffering a hamstring injury that required surgery, but is in line to feature against Villa after playing in a series of behind-closed-doors friendlies during the break.

"Reece has had the last two training sessions with us so providing there is no reaction he should be available," Potter said at a press conference on Friday. 

"N'Golo has had some time on the pitch, some game time, so that's good for him.

"We have to manage that because he's been out for so long but I'm pretty sure he will be out on the pitch at some point."

Potter also confirmed that Saturday's fixture will come too soon for defensive trio Thiago Silva, Cesar Azpilicueta and Wesley Fofana, while Raheem Sterling is also set to miss the game. 

"Silva and Azpilicueta are still away. Raheem and Fofana are coming back but will miss the game, they have more of a chance for Tuesday [v Liverpool]," Potter said.

Mason Mount was another forced to pull out of the England squad with a pubic bone injury and has endured a tough season with just three Premier League goals so far.

The 24-year-old's contract expires at the end of next season but despite rumours over his future at the London club, Potter was full of praise for Mount's attitude.

"Mount has trained and is available, probably not for the start," he said.

"It's been tough for him because he's had niggly injuries and noise off the pitch. He's a top professional, how he's acted with me and around us has been top. 

"Sometimes if things in your career aren't optimal, you've got to act well and he has."

Chelsea sit in 10th place in the league and look to bounce back from their disappointing 2-2 draw with relegation-threatened Everton.

Unai Emery's Villa are level on points with the Blues in 11th and are unbeaten in their last four league games.

Aston Villa head coach Unai Emery has backed Graham Potter for long-term success at Chelsea and says there are already signs of progress at Stamford Bridge.

Potter succeeded Tuchel in the Chelsea dugout in early September, but his future was called into question following a run one win in 11 games to begin the year.

However, the former Brighton and Hove Albion boss has slowly turned things around, with Chelsea entering the international break on a run of three wins and a draw.

Villa boss Emery, who lasted 18 months at Arsenal before being sacked in November 2019, believes Potter fully deserves his chance to shine at a big club.

"He did amazing at Brighton and needs time to adapt his ideas at Chelsea," Emery said at Thursday's pre-match press conference. "Progressively, they're doing better and better.

"Tuchel's work was also amazing, but what Potter did with Brighton was really amazing and he deserved to take a step up with a team like Chelsea. 

"They're now progressing. Everything he previously did with Brighton he can do as well with Chelsea. He just needs time.

"They have played well in the Champions League but have not been as consistent in the Premier League. 

"But we know on Saturday we're playing one of the best teams in the Premier League. It's a good challenge for us and this is why I'm in the Premier League."

Villa have taken 10 points from their past 12 available, leaving them level on points with 10th-placed opponents Chelsea, and Emery is now targeting a top-half finish.

"When I arrived we were struggling at the bottom but the first reaction from the club, supporters, players, was amazing," Emery said. "Now we have escaped the bottom positions. 

"Now we can think of our new challenge, which is to be in the top 10. This will start this Saturday. We think we have a good possibility to be there.

"The last four matches we played, scoring seven goals and conceding only one, winning three matches and drawing one, it was a very good moment for us."

Rodri said Manchester City did their talking on the pitch as they bounced back from a troubling week by beating Aston Villa.

City won 3-1 on Sunday at the Etihad Stadium – where the Premier League anthem was booed by home fans prior to kick-off – to move within three points of leaders Arsenal ahead of Wednesday's crunch clash in north London.

Rodri opened the scoring in the fourth minute, with Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez putting City into a deserved 3-0 lead by the break.

Ollie Watkins pulled one back for Villa on his 100th appearance for the club, and although Jhon Duran hit the crossbar late on, City were comfortable enough as they made something of a statement after the Premier League accused them over 100 alleged breaches of financial regulations between 2009 and 2018.

"We just talk about football, we talk on the pitch," Rodri told BBC Sport when asked about the off-field furore surrounding City.

"What happens off the pitch is not our business."

City can move top of the Premier League with a win over Arsenal on Wednesday after the Gunners took just one point from their past two games against Everton and Brentford.

"We have the chance to go top," Rodri added. "Go there and show our personality, the team that we are.

"They are playing at an incredible level and we have an incredible level too. It is going to be an incredible fight and an incredible battle and we have the chance to be on top of the table, so that's what we have to think."

Rodri had a difficult game in the 1-0 defeat at Tottenham last week, but the midfielder was back at his best on Sunday.

The Spain international had three shots, got two on target, and created four chances for team-mates, while topping the game for touches (112) and aerial duels won (five).

"Important game for me. It's always part of the game when you fail, when you miss," Rodri said. 

"I was a bit upset last week but of course. I think the best players are the ones who come back easily.

"Today the team was great, even though I scored the first goal. It was important for me, for the mood of the team.

"Here in the Etihad when we can score in the first 15 minutes, it is a different game for us.

"The crowd was amazing, the environment was great. That's what we need. Sometimes the coach speaks about this. We need the [fans] in every game here."

Villa boss Unai Emery, meanwhile, rued sloppy mistakes from his team in the first half.

"We knew this would be a tough game after three away wins but we were not competitive," he told Sky Sports.

"They were clinical, but we made mistakes today, three very important goals we could avoid normally.

"In the second we tried to be consistent, forget the score and be competitive and I think we did that in the second half.

"We have to be clinical with the chances we get, but in the first half they were better than us and decided the match. I can only say sorry to our supporters, and we did not play in the way we have been."

Aston Villa have completed the signing of Alex Moreno from Real Betis, making the left-back their first new arrival since Unai Emery became head coach.

Villa will reportedly pay Betis £13.2million (€15m) including add-ons for the 29-year-old Spaniard, who can also play in a more advanced position on the left flank.

Moreno, who has also represented Mallorca, Rayo Vallecano and Elche, reportedly penned a contract to run until 2027 upon his arrival at Villa Park.

"Alex is a good player that can help our squad," Emery told the club's website. "He has been one of the top left-backs in LaLiga over the past few seasons and we are delighted to have him here."

Emery has led Villa to three wins in his first five Premier League games at the helm since taking over in November.

However, the low point of his tenure to date came on Sunday, as Villa fell to a humiliating FA Cup exit against fourth-tier Stevenage, who stunned the Premier League side with two late goals in a memorable 2-1 victory at Villa Park. 

Stevenage manager Steve Evans revealed that Sunday's stunning FA Cup triumph over Aston Villa had given club chairman Phil Wallace "the greatest day in his life".

The League Two promotion hopefuls sprung a shock at Villa Park, with two late goals securing a 2-1 comeback victory over Unai Emery's Premier League side.

Villa, who had Leander Dendoncker sent off for a foul that led to Jamie Reid's equaliser from the spot before Dean Campbell's 90th-minue winner, have now lost eight consecutive FA Cup games.

But the hosts' woes were far from the mind of victorious boss Evans, who shared a telling snippet from a conversation he had enjoyed with his employer. 

"It is really special," he told BBC Sport. "The chairman just said to me it's the greatest day in his life and he's been with the club for 26-27 years.

"It's a fantastic day for the town but we'll not kid ourselves; this is a fantastic football club and we'll enjoy the moment and these guys have treated us absolutely fantastic since we walked into the building today.

"We'll know to be humble and get on with our jobs for Saturday."

It is indeed back to reality for the fourth-tier club, who head to Harrogate next weekend as their promotion push continues.

For Villa, who welcome Leeds United on Friday, it is a stark reminder that, despite making strides since Emery's appointment in October, they still have a long way to go.

The winning goal came from a short corner as the 10-man hosts failed to close down Campbell, who struck a low shot beyond Robin Olsen.

An apologetic Emery, who made eight changes and saw his men take the lead through Morgan Sanson, said: "They were so excited to try and surprise us in the corner and they did it.

"I'm really sorry for the supporters. It's a process we are [undergoing] here and I want to create [something].

"It was really so, so disappointing. We can feel because at the end we lost everything we created in the 80 minutes."

It is the first time since 1964 that Villa have lost to a fourth-tier outfit while in the top flight.

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