Aston Villa 2-1 AZ Alkmaar: Ollie Watkins scores late Europa … – Yahoo Sports

Aston Villa all but sealed qualification to the Europa Conference League knockout stages as Ollie Watkins’ late winner helped his side come from behind to beat AZ Alkmaar at Villa Park.

Watkins raced on to Douglas Luiz‘s chipped pass to nod Villa in front in the 81st minute.

Vangelis Pavlidis had scored AZ Alkmaar’s opener early in the second half, latching on to a ball over the top and dinking a finish over Villa keeper Emiliano Martinez.

Diego Carlos equalised for Villa nine minutes later when he rose highest to meet Leon Bailey‘s corner and nod in his first goal for the club.

The result means Villa need just one more point from their final two matches to reach the knockout stages of the Conference League.

They remain second in the group, six points above Zrinjski Mostar, who are ahead of AZ on goal difference.

“The reaction after we conceded was fantastic,” said Aston Villa manager Unai Emery.

“We have to be strong and take experiences like tonight to know how to win in Europe against really good teams.”

Villa on course but fortunate with equaliser

This season’s Conference League offers a good opportunity for Villa to win a first major trophy since lifting the EFL Cup in 1996.

Emery’s side were committed from the off, starting brilliantly as Clement Lenglet headed them in front inside three minutes, only for the video assistant referee to rule the goal out for offside in the build-up.

Youri Tielemans also had a fine first-half shot tipped round the post by AZ goalkeeper Mat Ryan.

But the visitors soon grew into the match and had a goal of their own ruled out for offside when Pavlidis tapped in Sven Mijnans’ cross just before the break.

AZ, second in the Dutch Eredivisie, took the lead through Pavlidis after the restart but Villa, buoyed by their home support, played their best football after falling behind.

Midfielder Boubacar Kamara diverted an effort over from four yards out midway through the second period, with the referee mistakenly awarding Villa a corner and Carlos subsequently heading in the equaliser.

Villa continued to push for the winner and Watkins, named in the England squad earlier on Thursday, deservedly completed the comeback.

Emery accepted his side were fortunate with their equaliser, adding: “It was a very good chance for Kamara, it was fantastic, but it was not a corner, it’s clear, and after this mistake we score.

“I’m very happy because when we are winning a game like this we can understand this competition better and the processes we’re trying to build.

“I’m very proud of our work in this competition. We’re getting better.”

The three points represent just the response Emery would have been looking for after his side’s defeat by Nottingham Forest at the weekend, their first loss in six matches.

Villa can now seal a spot in the Conference League knockouts in their next match in the competition at home to Legia Warsaw on 30 November.

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