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Aston Villa thrash Hibernian as Ollie Watkins bags a hat-trick

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Hibernian 0-5 Aston Villa UEFA Europa Conference League
Aston Villa players Douglas Luiz and Ollie Watkins celebrating a goal in the match. | PHOTO: Sky Sports |
  • Aston Villa played Scottish side Hibernian in the UEFA Europa Conference League qualifiers
  • Villa needed a win to book a slot in the group stage of the 2023/24 Conference League
  • Ollie Watkins bagged a hat-trick as Villa thrashed Hibernian 5-0 

Aston Villa left no room for doubt as they secured their place in the Europa Conference League with an emphatic 5-0 victory over Hibernian, marking their return to European competition after a 13-year absence. The first leg of the qualifying play-off tie was essentially settled by halftime, thanks to a remarkable hat-trick by Ollie Watkins, two of which came from the England international’s head, and an additional header by Jamaica’s Leon Bailey.

The second half appeared to offer little respite for Hibernian, and Watkins swiftly extended Aston Villa’s lead just three minutes after the restart. Douglas Luiz piled on the misery for the Scottish Premiership team, converting a penalty in the 74th minute, sealing their fate in a decidedly one-sided affair.

Hibernian 0-5 Aston Villa: Ollie Watkins hat-trick

Aston Villa forward Ollie Watkins leads other Villa players in celebration after completing his hat-trick against Hibernian in a UEFA Europa Conference League qualifiers. | PHOTO: Sky |

This momentous match also marked a significant milestone for Aston Villa manager Lee Johnson, as it was his 500th competitive game in management. Yet, despite the heavy favorites status of Villa, Unai Emery demonstrated his commitment by making just one change to the lineup that had recently demolished Everton 4-0 in the Premier League, with Diego Carlos stepping in for Matty Cash.

READ: Aston Villa secure return to European football after 13 years

John McGinn, a former Hibs fan favorite, returned to Leith as the Villa captain, receiving some early boos from the home supporters. However, their displeasure was short-lived as Watkins opened the scoring in the 17th minute, capitalizing on a well-placed cross from Lucas Digne.

Watkins had a golden opportunity to double the lead shortly thereafter but, inexplicably unmarked, he directed a header over the crossbar from a McGinn delivery. Hibs made a brief resurgence, with a penalty claim in the 26th minute when Martin Boyle went down in the box under pressure from Villa’s Douglas Luiz, but the referee remained unimpressed.

As the first half continued, Villa’s attacking prowess was evident, and Watkins notched his second goal in the 32nd minute, expertly heading home a corner from Douglas Luiz. Just before the halftime whistle, Bailey added to Hibs’ misery with another headed goal, courtesy of a well-placed cross from Digne.

The second half saw Villa maintaining their dominance, with Watkins completing his hat-trick from another Digne delivery. Although initially ruled offside, VAR confirmed the goal’s legitimacy. In a bid to salvage some pride, Hibs needed to tighten up their defense, but their efforts proved futile as Douglas Luiz converted a penalty after Bertrand Traore was fouled in the box.

From there, Villa cruised through the remainder of the game, while Hibernian eagerly welcomed the final whistle, signaling the end of their European aspirations for the season. The match starkly highlighted the gap in quality between the top-flight leagues in Scotland and England, making for a frustrating viewing experience for Scottish football enthusiasts.

Nathan Sialah is a journalist by profession with interest in politics, sports, cryptocurrency and human interests with 5 years experience in Radio and Digital Journalism. This has helped Sialah develop a responsible approach to any task he undertakes or any situation that he is presented with.

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