Aston Villa are one step closer to the Europa Conference League knockout stages after goals from Diego Carlos and Ollie Watkins helped the Villans to victory over AZ Alkmaar.
Aston Villa have all but secured qualification into the knockout stages of the Europa Conference League following a 2-1 success over AZ Alkmaar at Villa Park.
After a cagey first period, the Dutch outfit took a shock lead courtesy of Evangelos Pavlidis, however a pair of headed efforts from defender Diego Carlos and England international Ollie Watkins sealed a third victory in four Group E matches for the Villans.
The Premier League side remain second in the section following Legia Warsaw’s win over Zrinjski Mostar earlier in the day, however Villa now possess a six-point buffer over the third-placed Bosnians with only two games left to play. ...Click Here To Continue Reading>>
Villa made four changes to the XI which produced a limp display in the defeat at Nottingham Forest on Sunday, with Brazilian Carlos, Clement Lenglet, Youri Tielemans and Leon Bailey coming into the hosts’ starting lineup as they looked to complete the double for their Dutch counterparts.
With youngster Ruben van Bommel and Ibrahim Sadiq boasting just one Eredivisie goal between them, AZ’s offensive threat arrived in the form of striker Pavlidis, who was expectedly named at the focal point of the visitors’ attack after finding the net against NEC last time out.
After dismantling Alkmaar on their own patch during their last European adventure, it was no surprise that Villa started the game brightly in front of an expectant crowd in the Second City, and Unai Emery’s men had the ball in the back of their opponents’ net in the opening three minutes.
The returning Bailey picked up the ball on the right flank following Watkins’ strike firing off the post, and the Jamaican provided a cross for former Barcelona man Lenglet who headed in, however the winger was offside after taking the original corner.
There was little goalmouth action in the first period but the Dutch visitors did grow into the contest as the half-time break approached, and a free-flowing move from Pascal Jansen’s men was finished off by leading marksman Pavlidis, however midfielder Sven Mijnans was offside in the build-up.
Despite Villa’s dominance possession wise, AZ were starting to realise the fragile nature of the hosts’ high line, and shortly after the break the Eredivisie title chasers took the lead courtesy of their most-potent attacker in the opening months of the 2023-24 term.
Centre-back Riechedly Bazoer spotted the run of Greek international Pavlidis off the back of Lenglet, and the Dutchman produced a long ball for the 24-year-old striker, who evaded the attentions of the Emery’s backline before dinking the ball over the onrushing Emiliano Martinez to put the visitors ahead.
The Villans responded well to going behind in the contest and could have been level when Lucas Digne’s cross found the run of Boubacar Kamara, however the French youngster’s effort on goal ballooned above the crossbar and left the Villa Park crowd wondering whether it would be their side’s night.
With referee Luis Miguel Branco Godinho wrongly judging that Jordy Clasie had managed to get a decisive touch on Kamara’s shot, Villa were awarded a corner which led to their equaliser, with Bailey finding the head of Carlos, who netted his first-ever strike in a European fixture.
Although AZ posed a threat on the break with the arrivals of Ernest Poku and Myron van Brederode from the bench, Emery’s men were in the ascendency following their goal, and it did not take long for the Premier League outfit to take complete control of the contest for the first time.
Substitute Douglas Luiz picked up the ball as Alkmaar were camped around their penalty area, and the Brazil international delivered a perfectly-weighted ball over the visitors’ backline into the path of Watkins, who guided the ball into the near post with a header past the helpless Matthew Ryan.
Villa had chances to extend their advantage in the closing stages and did well to hold on for a valuable three points, with the Second City club welcoming Marco Silva’s Fulham to Villa Park on Sunday afternoon, aiming to avoid back-to-back domestic defeats for the first time this term.
With AZ’s progression in the Conference League in serious jeopardy following defeat in England, Jansen’s men will turn their attentions to Eredivisie matters on Sunday when they travel to Dutch champions Feyenoord, with Alkmaar currently level on points with Arne Slot’s charges.
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Saturday’s Transfer Talk Update: Joao Palhinha, Javi Guerra, Ryan Gravenberch
Sports Mole rounds up the latest confirmed transfer news and speculation from across the footballing world.
The January transfer window is almost here and clubs around the UK and Europe are lining up moves as they look to take advantage of the opportunity to strengthen.
Saturday morning’s headlines:...Click Here To Continue Reading>>
Manchester United and Liverpool reportedly enter the race to sign Fulham midfielder Joao Palhinha, who is also attracting interest from Arsenal. Read more.
Chelsea are reportedly willing to do whatever it takes to secure the services of Napoli striker Victor Osimhen. Read more.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp plays down speculation suggesting the club will look to sign a new centre-back to replace the injured Joel Matip. Read more.
Manchester City goalkeeper Zack Steffen is reportedly in advanced talks with Colorado Rapids over a deal to return to Major League Soccer. Read more.
Premier League duo Chelsea and West Ham United reportedly receive a boost in their pursuit of Lyon’s 20-year-old attacker Rayan Cherki. Read more.
Valencia are allegedly willing to sell midfielder Javi Guerra for a fee in the region of £34.2m amid interest from Manchester United. Read more.
Pep Guardiola apologises to Kalvin Phillips for not selecting him in the Manchester City team this season, but the Citizens boss admits that he “struggles to see” the midfielder in his plans. Read more.
Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot, who has been heavily linked with Manchester United, will reportedly sign a new deal in Turin. Read more.
Sporting director Matt Hobbs reveals that defender Jonny will not train with the first team until February at the earliest after a training-ground incident last week. Read more.
Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund meet to discuss a possible swap deal involving Jadon Sancho and Donyell Malen, according to a report. Read more.
RB Leipzig head coach Marco Rose plays down claims that Timo Werner has been given the green light to leave the club during the January transfer window. Read more.
Real Madrid are reportedly keeping a close eye on the uncertain contract situation of Bayern Munich defender Alphonso Davies, whose deal expires in 2025. Read more.
Barcelona reportedly rekindle their interest in Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford and are considering offering Raphinha in exchange for the Englishman. Read more.
Ferran Torres allegedly tells Xavi that he is prepared to remain at Barcelona for at least the remainder of the season. Read more.
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Team News: Alisson Becker returns for Liverpool, Jarell Quansah starts
Alisson Becker returns in goal for Liverpool’s Premier League clash with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, while Jarell Quansah starts in defence.
Alisson Becker has returned in goal for Liverpool’s Premier League clash with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
The Brazil international has been out with a thigh issue since November’s 1-1 draw with champions Manchester City but has made a quick recovery to demote Caoimhin Kelleher back down to the bench.
Crystal Palace: Johnstone; Ward, Andersen, Guehi, Clyne; Richards, Lerma; Ayew, Hughes, Schlupp; EdouardSubs: Matthews, Tomkins, Riedewald, Ozoh, Ahamada, Olise, Franca, Ebiowei, Mateta
Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Quansah, Van Dijk, Tsimikas; Gravenberch, Endo, Szoboszlai; Salah, Nunez, DiazSubs: Kelleher, Gomez, Konate, Jones, Gakpo, Elliott, Doak, McConnell, Bradley
More to follow.
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