- Aston Villa defeated AZ Alkmaar 4-1 in the Europa Conference League.
- Goals from Leon Bailey and Youri Tielemans in the first half and Ollie Watkins and John McGinn in the second secured the win for Villa.
Aston Villa defeated AZ Alkmaar 4-1 in the Europa Conference League thanks to two goals from Leon Bailey and Youri Tielemans in the first half and two more from Ollie Watkins and John McGinn in the second.
Villa looked the better team in the first few minutes of the game, shutting down their opponents fast and making it difficult for them to maintain long ball control.
The visitors took the lead thanks to a deft ball from Boubacar Kamara to Bailey, who recovered from a sloppy touch to score a magnificent half-volley past Mathew Ryan.
Bailey, who was a constant for the majority of the first half, keeps putting himself forward to start with Watkins and Moussa Diaby in a front three more frequently, particularly following his stunning goal against West Ham United this past weekend.
Despite AZ’s best efforts to stay in the game, distributing the ball and holding onto control when they could, it seemed inevitable that the visitors would extend their advantage given Villa’s superior skill.
And that’s exactly what occurred when McGinn intercepted a misdirected pass from De Wit and squared the ball to Tielemans, who handled it expertly and finished clinically between the keeper’s legs.
Vangelis Pavlidis tapped Myron Van Brederode’s cross into the net just before the half-hour mark, giving the home team the impression that they had equalized; however, the goal was ruled out for offside.
In England’s most recent victory over Australia, Watkins scored the game’s lone goal past Ryan. The English attacker then beat the Australian keeper once more before the hour mark, this time after Bailey’s blocked shot fell at his feet for an easy tap-in.
Bailey—possibly Villa’s finest attacker of the game—also played a key role in the team’s fourth goal, providing the assist as he slipped in captain McGinn at the near post for a sliding finish that put the Villans out of reach.
Although they were four goals down, AZ deserved a lot of credit for never giving up. They were rewarded for their perseverance when Ibrahim Sadiq took a long pass down on his chest and fired a low effort across Emiliano Martinez and into the bottom corner to score on his European debut.
Although many Villa supporters would like to see the team actually try to win the Conference League, it will be interesting to see if they put their aspirations for the league above the third-tier European competition. Unai Emery has lifted the Europa League title four times in his career.
Villa now leads Conference League Group E with this victory. This weekend, the Cheese Farmers will return to league action against NEC, and the Villans will face Luton Town at Villa Park.