Aston Villa all but sealed qualification to the Europa Conference League knockout stages as Ollie Watkins’ late winner helped his side come from behind to beat AZ Alkmaar at Villa Park.
Watkins raced on to Douglas Luiz’s chipped pass to nod Villa in front in the 81st minute.
Vangelis Pavlidis had scored AZ Alkmaar’s opener early in the second half, latching on to a ball over the top and dinking a finish over Villa keeper Emiliano Martinez.
Diego Carlos equalised for Villa nine minutes later when he rose highest to meet Leon Bailey’s corner and nod in his first goal for the club.
The result means Villa need just one more point from their final two matches to reach the knockout stages of the Conference League.
They remain second in the group, six points above Zrinjski Mostar, who are ahead of AZ on goal difference.
“The reaction after we conceded was fantastic,” said Aston Villa manager Unai Emery.
“We have to be strong and take experiences like tonight to know how to win in Europe against really good teams.”
Villa on course but fortunate with equaliser
This season’s Conference League offers a good opportunity for Villa to win a first major trophy since lifting the EFL Cup in 1996.
Emery’s side were committed from the off, starting brilliantly as Clement Lenglet headed them in front inside three minutes, only for the video assistant referee to rule the goal out for offside in the build-up.
Youri Tielemans also had a fine first-half shot tipped round the post by AZ goalkeeper Mat Ryan.
But the visitors soon grew into the match and had a goal of their own ruled out for offside when Pavlidis tapped in Sven Mijnans’ cross just before the break.
AZ, second in the Dutch Eredivisie, took the lead through Pavlidis after the restart but Villa, buoyed by their home support, played their best football after falling behind.
Midfielder Boubacar Kamara diverted an effort over from four yards out midway through the second period, with the referee mistakenly awarding Villa a corner and Carlos subsequently heading in the equaliser.
Villa continued to push for the winner and Watkins, named in the England squad earlier on Thursday, deservedly completed the comeback.
Emery accepted his side were fortunate with their equaliser, adding: “It was a very good chance for Kamara, it was fantastic, but it was not a corner, it’s clear, and after this mistake we score.
“I’m very happy because when we are winning a game like this we can understand this competition better and the processes we’re trying to build.
“I’m very proud of our work in this competition. We’re getting better.”
The three points represent just the response Emery would have been looking for after his side’s defeat by Nottingham Forest at the weekend, their first loss in six matches.
Villa can now seal a spot in the Conference League knockouts in their next match in the competition at home to Legia Warsaw on 30 November.
- 1E Martínez
- 4KonsaSubstituted forCashat 74′minutes
- 3Diego CarlosSubstituted forP Torresat 90′minutes
- 8TielemansSubstituted forDouglas Luizat 74′minutes
- 31BaileySubstituted forTraoréat 90′minutes
- 19DiabySubstituted forZanioloat 74′minutes
- 6Douglas Luiz
- 14P Torres
- 4Martins Indi
- 18Møller Wolfe
- 8ClasieSubstituted forOliveira Dantasat 88′minutes
- 10de WitSubstituted forMihailovicat 69′minutes
- 16MijnansSubstituted forOdgaardat 88′minutes
- 11SadiqSubstituted forPokuat 69′minutes
- 15van BommelSubstituted forvan Brederodeat 69′minutes
- 5Penetra Correia
- 6Oliveira Dantas
- 19van Brederode
- Luís Miguel Branco Godinho
Match ends, Aston Villa 2, AZ 1.
Second Half ends, Aston Villa 2, AZ 1.
Offside, AZ. Djordje Mihailovic tries a through ball, but Vangelis Pavlidis is caught offside.
Substitution, Aston Villa. Bertrand Traoré replaces Leon Bailey.
Substitution, Aston Villa. Pau Torres replaces Diego Carlos because of an injury.
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Delay in match because of an injury Diego Carlos (Aston Villa).
Substitution, AZ. Tiago Dantas replaces Jordy Clasie.
Substitution, AZ. Jens Odgaard replaces Sven Mijnans.
Foul by Vangelis Pavlidis (AZ).
Matty Cash (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa).
Riechedly Bazoer (AZ) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Goal! Aston Villa 2, AZ 1. Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa) header from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Douglas Luiz with a through ball.
Attempt saved. Nicolò Zaniolo (Aston Villa) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Ollie Watkins.
Foul by Diego Carlos (Aston Villa).
Myron van Brederode (AZ) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Aston Villa. Nicolò Zaniolo replaces Moussa Diaby.
Substitution, Aston Villa. Matty Cash replaces Ezri Konsa.
Substitution, Aston Villa. Douglas Luiz replaces Youri Tielemans.
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