Aston Villa (3), Luton (1) – A win in Europe and over Luton, 12 Premier League home wins in a row

Sunday, October 29, 16:30, Villa Park

Our Villans came back last Thursday evening from a game in the Netherlands elated with their 4-1 win over AZ Alkmaar and with a relatively easy fixture on Sunday at Villa Park against Luton Town to look forward to. 

Prior to meeting AZ Alkmaar, holding second place behind PSV in the Dutch Premier League, our Villans had recorded one win and one loss in the Europa Conference Group Stage.  This impressive away win has set them up for success in their return to European competition after decades in soccer wilderness.

Meanwhile, they were facing, in Luton, a cellar dweller, while holding a solid 5th place just outside the top four positions that offered entry into the Champions League.  Heady heights for the team and for us Villa fans.

The distribution of the four goals in the Netherlands augured well for our Sunday game.  Certainly, it was far better than having to wait until the 94th minute to beat Zrinjski with a McGinn header three weeks prior.  This time, we started well, taking an early lead and building on it with clinical finishing. 

Leon Bailey started and opened the scoring and added an assist, letting him relax on the bench to start the Luton game.  Similarly, Youri Tielemans started and scored his first goal as a Villan and added an assist, putting him in a good psychological space to join Leon on the bench.  Then Ollie Watkins found himself in an excellent position for a tap-in to continue his scoring streak.  Finally, it was McGinn again, our Scottish international, who closed the scoring like a veritable striker.  Our defense, again, was stellar.

With so many games close together, Emery must harness his limited resources.  He did that by resting Konsa and Torres, while letting Carlos and Lenglet pair up for the full 90 minutes.  As for Traoré, Dendoncker, and Duran, they got valuable game-time minutes, while McGinn, Kamara, Luiz, Zaniolo, Diaby, and Watkins got part-time minutes to make up for the missed training ground workouts.

From the kickoff, it was obvious everyone was ready to take Luton seriously.  Our Villans sprayed the ball around for the first minute and a half before Kamara lifted a pass over the Luton backline for Diaby to run onto.  With the Luton defense in disarray, our Villans could have easily opened the scoring with the best chance going to Watkins only for Luiz thinking it was for him.  Ollie shrugged his shoulders and Luton eventually cleared.

Then, in the fourth minute Cash found Diaby open again and he fed Ollie who dished up a flick to an open Zaniolo trailing.  The Italian had a wide open top left corner to side-foot into only to sweep it just wide.  Nicolò desperately needs his first Villa goal to calm his nerves in front of the net.

Then, Watkins finally got a chance to score, and it was the same recipe that had worked before.  This time Konsa found Cash running clear in the inside-right channel and he squared across the 6-yard box to an open Ollie for a tap-in only for Kaminski, the goalie, to dive acrobatically and parry away the first shot and then Ollie’s second from the rebound.

Our Villans kept up the pressure with their visitors focused on keeping them at bay with little effort to go forward themselves.  Eventually, Digne was brought down as he dribbled in from the left.  Luiz took the freekick and picked out Diaby with a daisy-cutter on the penalty spot.  The French star, as pre-planned, let it run.  John McGinn was open, and he trapped it with his right foot as three Luton defenders rushed out to block McGinn’s left-footed shot only for our canny Scot, to sucker all of them by pulling it back and calmly stroking the ball into the far corner with his right foot.  Aston Villa 1, Luton Town 0 in the 17th

minute.

Villa almost added to their lead within a minute.  Digne zipped over a cross to Watkins, but it was at an awkward height and Ollie reset and recovered the ball and delivered a pass to Zaniolo at the near post.  Kaminski was alive to the deflection and blocked that with his foot for another corner.

Luton asserted themselves and earned a freekick in a good position to get a dead-ball opportunity, but Doughty’s effort sailed over the bar.  Wasteful.

In the 27th minute Luton showed their mettle.  Ogbene outpaced Kamara on the left and hit a dangerous cross into the 6-yard-box only for Martinez to anticipate and gather comfortably before Morris had a chance.  Then, when Kaboré sped past Zaniolo, our latest signing was forced to haul him down, receiving a justified yellow card.

Halftime came with no other scoring chances to either side.  Though only up 1-0, our Villans appeared relaxed in the knowledge that they had had many opportunities to score and, surely, would add to their lead.

When they came out for second half, Emery had replaced Zaniolo with Bailey, likely because our Italian was carrying a yellow card.  Bailey immediately made his mark, appearing able to beat one or two Hatters at-will.

Sure enough, within five minutes our Villans found the back of the net again.  After patient probing, Digne found McGinn deep on the left wing and then took off on a run around John.  With McGinn holding off Mengi, our captain was able to fashion a return pass for Digne who one-touched a looping cross to the far post.

Bailey was able to climb and beat Doughty to the ball and cushion it towards Diaby poised on the penalty spot.  Moussa’s technique was breathtaking as he caught the ball on the half-volley with his left foot and it flew into the left corner of the net.  Aston Villa 2, Luton Town 0 in the 49th minute.

Villa threatened to add to their lead in the 55th minute when Bailey set-up Watkins coming towards the right near post only for Lockyer to make a brilliant saving tackle to get his leg in the way.  Villa got a corner, Lockyer got a kick in the leg from Ollie and Ollie, himself, got more frustrated.

Our Villans reduced their pace to a walk to save energy and to run the clock out.  Then, Kamara shaped another pass to clear Luton’s back line and Diaby ran for it, beating Mengi by a half a step and crossing across the crease.  With Watkins waiting for the tap-in, Lockyer could only run into the ball and carry it over the line.  Own goal.  Aston Villa 3, Luton Town 0 in the 62nd minute.

When Bailey got another chance to cut-back from the goal line, he did so with more of a chip-shot.  Still, McGinn waiting at the penalty spot should have done better but he attempted to hit the spinning ball first time.  The shot was totally miscued, and it rolled to Kaminski who gratefully gathered.  With 80 minutes gone, it would have been icing on the cake.

Instead, our defense finally messed up.  Of all people, it was Ezri Konsa who headed back to Emi Martinez only for our goalie to have been in the process of leaving his line.  The header was at an awkward height and looked as if it might sneak under the bar.  Emi tried desperately to intervene only to fail to reach the ball and fell.  The ball rebounded off the bar and hit Emi, and rolled back into the net. Luton had scored Aston Villa 3, Luton Town 1 in the 83rd minute.

The scoresheet almost worsened for our Villans when Dendoncker, on for Luiz, dawdled in possession on the edge of the area and former Villan, Ross Barkley, dispossessed him.  Adebayo was ready to seize the chance and lashed a shot only for an alert Torres to get in the way and redirect for a corner.  That was in the 90+3’ and would have resulted in some nervous moments for players and fans alike.

Fortunately, John Brooks soon whistled for the final time, and we could relax, still sitting in 5th place but with four wins and a tie in our last five games, better than Arsenal, Man City and Liverpool and as well as Spurs, the current Premier League leader.  Heady company, indeed.

It may not have been the most entertaining of games, but considering this was a second game in four days, both comfortable wins, we should not complain.

Aston Villa: Martínez, Cash (Diego Carlos 79′, Konsa, Torres, Digne, McGinn, Kamara (Tielemans 79′), Douglas Luiz (Dendoncker 90’), Zaniolo (Bailey 45′), Diaby (Traoré 90’), Watkins

Unused Subs: Chambers, Lenglet, Olsen, Iroegbunam

Luton: Kaminski, Kaboré, Mengi, Lockyer, Osho (Townsend 57′), Doughty (Giles 79′), Nakamba (Mpanzu 76′), Barkley, Ogbene, Brown (Chong 58′), Morris (Adebayo 76′)

Unused Subs: Woodrow, Krul, Giles, Johnson, Luker

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