Seeking a fifth win from the opening seven games of a historical Premier League season, for only the third time in the club’s top-flight tenure, Aston Villa manager Unai Emery recalled familiar first-teamers Emiliano Martínez, Lucas Digne, Boubacar Kamara, Moussa Diaby and Ollie Watkins to the starting eleven.
Meanwhile, with one eye on his side’s UEFA Europa League clash against Ligue 1 heavyweights Olympique de Marseille on Thursday, Brighton manager Roberto De Zerbi once again rotated his starting lineup – with on-loan Barcelona forward Ansu Fati, João Pedro, Igor Julio and Jan Paul van Hecke all tactically demoted down to the substitutes bench.
AST: Martínez, Cash, Konsa, Torres, Digne; Luiz, McGinn, Kamara; Diaby, Zaniolo, Watkins
BRI: Steele, Veltman, Dunk, Webster, Estupiñán; Gilmour, Hinshelwood; March, Welbeck, Mitoma; Ferguson
Significantly victorious in their last nine consecutive appearances at Villa Park – the Villans‘ longest winning sequence since 1983, it was somewhat unsurprisingly that the hosts broke the deadlock shortly before the quarter-hour mark as Matty Cash’s enticing delivery into the danger zone was clinically fired home by Ollie Watkins.
Ominously, things went from bad to worse for Brighton seven minutes later, as Watkins doubled his own and his side’s tally on the afternoon with a sublimely-struck strike that beat Jason Steele at his near post.Embed from Getty Images
Unbelievably, Unai Emery’s side would continue their ruthless escapades in front of goal in the 26th minute, as Brighton’s appeals to VAR for a potential foul by Douglas Luiz in the build-up never materialised, allowing Moussa Diaby to fire in a second quick-fire effort on goal, that inadvertently deflected off Pervis Estupiñán, before making its way past Steele into the back of his own net.
Clearly unimpressed with his side’s opening 45-minute gambit, Brighton Roberto De Zerbi pulled no punches at half-time, as Ansu Fati, João Pedro and Tariq Lamptey were all summoned to come on for the start of the second half, with the Italian immediately rewarded for his gamble five minutes following on the restart.
Yet to open his account following his arrival from Barcelona, Fati survived a three-minute intervention, as the footballing gods checked for multiple potential infringements, to allow the loanee to righten that wrong after he had instinctively slotted past Emiliano Martínez at the back post.Embed from Getty Images
Nonetheless, Villa restored their three-goal advantage in the 65th minute, as Ollie Watkins took full advantage of John McGinn’s determination to drive forward towards the edge of the area from midfield by firing a deflected effort past the outstretched grasp of Steele. The England international’s strike sees him join Andy Gray – accomplished in the 1976/77 campaign – in the Villa Park record books as only the second-ever Villa player to score two hat-tricks across all competitions within the same season.
Jacob Ramsey thought he had added the finessing touches to the scoreline on his return to B6 after suffering a long-term injury in England’s 2023 Under-21 European Championships, as the fans’ favourite unleashed an exquisite curling effort into the far corner from the fringes of the area with four minutes left of regulation time.
However, there was still time left for Douglas Luiz to get onto the scoresheet in the seventh minute of stoppage time as the midfield maestro calmly passed the rebound in the back of the net after Watkins’ one-on-one effort had been smothered by the onrushing Steele.
The one-sided victory for Aston Villa lifts Emery’s side temporarily above Brighton into the UEFA Champions League qualification positions, ahead of their Europa Conference League clash against Bosnian outfit HŠK Zrinjski Mostar on Thursday evening. Meanwhile, Brighton fall to fourth position in the Premier League table after succumbing to only their second league defeat of the season.