Advantage Villa after narrow win over Lille

Aston Villa were made heavy favourites to win the UEFA Europa Conference League very early in the competition but I am sure most people would agree, if they are going to win it, they will have to earn it.

Although Emery’s side has had a pretty comfortable competition so far, French side Lille were always likely to be a difficult opponent.

Similar to Villa, Les Dogues are enjoying a good season and have a good chance of qualifying for the Champions League next season. They currently sit 4th in Ligue 1, just 3 points behind Monaco. The French authorities also like to give their sides every opportunity to progress in European competitions so Lille will now have a full week before they play again in the return leg while Villa have a difficult trip to North London on Sunday.

Report: Aston Villa 2-1 LOSC Lille

The one frustration I have with European football is the amount of diving that takes place, none more so than French sides. The irony is, Villa took the lead when Lille defender Ismaily decided to take a dive leaving Ollie Watkins to head home from a Douglas Luiz corner.

You would hope that the goal would settle the nerves but arguably the best side we have faced in the competition so far had different ideas.

Three times they broke the Villa backline before the break and if it wasn’t for the world number 1, Emiliano Martínez, it may have been a different scoreline at the half-time whistle.

The away side would have regretted not taking their chances when Villa came out for the second half with intent and on another day Watkins would have been awarded a penalty when Benjamin André fouled him in the box. Both the referee and VAR said no despite replays clearly showing the England forward being fouled.

The Villa faithful didn’t have to wait long though because the home side soon doubled their lead on the night.

Luiz took the corner short to Leon Bailey who slipped and the ball rolled to John McGinn who was waiting on the edge of the box. The Scotland international unleashed an effort and a slight deflection helped the ball nestle into the bottom corner.

The visitors then thought they had something to shout about when Gabriel Gudmundsson had put the ball in the back of the net but it was ruled out after a tight VAR call.

Lille continued to put pressure on Villa forcing two saves out of Martinez. Just as Villa looked to keep a clean sheet they conceded when Bafodé Diakité headed home from a set-piece.

Villa now heads to France knowing Lille has only lost 1 in 38 games at home.

What the manager said

Emery: “A difficult match, we are ready to play another 90 minutes. We played the first 90 minutes, did not control the game how we wanted, defensively doing more work than we prepared for, because we wanted to control the game with our positioning.

“They are a good team, tactically good. We needed the goalkeeper in the first half, Emi was fantastic, saving some attacks from them. In the second half, we were better. It is better 2-0 than 2-1 but they are a very good team as well, we have to accept it.”

Up Next

Aston Villa will head to North London on Sunday as they take on title-chasing Arsenal at the Emirates in the Premier League.

Lille are not back in action before they meet Villa again next Thursday.

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