Legia Warszawa 3-2 Aston Villa: Unai Emery’s side defeated in UEFA Europa Conference League opener

Confidence was high among the Aston Villa faithful as they ventured to Poland for Thursday’s UEFA Europa Conference League clash, after they witnessed Unai Emery’s side dismantle Crystal Palace with three late goals on Saturday.

LEG: Tobiasz; Ribeiro, Kapuadi, Pankov; Kun, Elitim, Slisz, Wszolek; Muçi, Gual, Josué

AVL: Martínez; Digne, Lenglet, Konsa, Chambers; Tielemans, Kamara; Zaniolo, McGinn, Bailey; Durán

Yet that confidence was shattered within two minutes, as Pavel Wszolek found the back of the net to hand Legia Warszawa an early lead. Patryk Kun’s ball in from the left flank was met beautifully by the goalscorer, who simply had to tap home to cue euphoric scenes in the home stands.

But Villa would respond almost instantly, and by the sixth minute, parity had been restored. Nicolo Zaniolo’s thunderous strike from outside of the box was parried onto the bar well by Kacper Tobiasz, though the arriving Jhon Durán was well placed to head home a much-needed equaliser.

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Legia Warszawa had certainly been the brighter side throughout the opening stages though, and the Polish side would reclaim the lead just before the half-hour mark through Ernest Muçi. Wszolek jinked past Lucas Digne on the right flank, flicking a cross into the area for Muçi who made no mistake with a tidy half-volleyed finish.

Digne would be granted an opportunity to make amends for that defensive error though, as the Frenchman struck Villa level once more in the 38th minute. A volleyed strike from the edge of the penalty area took a slight deflection, although Tobiasz would have had no chance either way.

It seemed to spark life into the visitors, who came close to taking the lead through Leon Bailey and John McGinn before the break – but alas, there would be nothing to separate the two teams as they headed down the tunnel for half-time.

Just six minutes into the second period though, Villa found themselves trailing once more. A second goal of the evening for Muçi would hand the hosts the upper hand, with a sublime finish that saw the goalscorer dance past the defence and thread an effort past Emiliano Martínez.

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And despite Unai Emery utilising all five of his available substitutions in a bid to revert to his preferred starting eleven with twenty minutes left to play, Villa were unable to claw themselves back into contention once more.

Aston Villa’s attention will now turn to their next European fixture on 5 October, as they host Zrinjski Mostar at Villa Park. Legia Warszawa will travel to AZ Alkmaar on the same date.