Aston Villa 2-1 Lille: Hosts claim slender first-leg lead in Europa League quarter-final tie as Ollie Watkins and John McGinn strike in each half… but Bafode Diakite hits back with late goal
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Aston Villa 2-1 Lille: Hosts claim slender first-leg lead in Europa League quarter-final tie as Ollie Watkins and John McGinn strike in each half… but Bafode Diakite hits back with late goal

Apr 20, 2024
  • Unai Emery marked his 1,000th game as a manager with a narrow win
  • The French side were repeatedly denied by Villa keeper Emiliano Martinez
  • IAN LADYMAN and CHRIS SUTTON have their say on the Premier League’s Player of the Year – Listen to the It’s All Kicking Off podcast 

Aston Villa will head to France next week with a slender advantage and 90 minutes away from a first major European semi-final since 1982.

Goals from Ollie Watkins and John McGinn in either half gave Villa a two-goal lead and they had keeper Emiliano Martinez to thank for an array of crucial saves before Lille pulled one back late on through Bafodo Diakite.

On a night where defeats for Liverpool and West Ham in the Europa League hampered the Premier League’s bid for five Champions League spots – which may prove crucial for Villa – Unai Emery’s side will know they will have their work cut out for the return leg with Paulo Fonseca’s team guilty of not taking their chance.

‘The feeling I have is frustration because we created the opportunities to get a better result,’ said Fonseca, who was left bemoaning VAR. 

‘There was a foul for both of their goals. With VAR, it’s incredible they miss these things,’ insisted the Lille boss. 

Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins opened the scoring with his 25th goal of the season

Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins opened the scoring with his 25th goal of the season

Watkins scored in the 13th minute, left unmarked in the box to head in from a McGinn corner.

Watkins scored in the 13th minute, left unmarked in the box to head in from a McGinn corner.

John McGinn doubled the lead with a fine strike into the bottom corner in the 56th minute

John McGinn doubled the lead with a fine strike into the bottom corner in the 56th minute

Emery insisted that he wasn’t aware.

‘It was a difficult match,’ he said. ‘2-0 is better than 2-1 but they’re a very good team as well and we have to accept it.’

Ahead of his 1000th game in charge, the Spaniard asked the fans to ‘dream together as it was 42 years ago,’ stressing that it was Villa’s first major European quarter-final since 1998.

Emery knows more than most about continental success with four Europa League titles to his name and his team raced out of the blocks as Watkins headed in from McGinn’s corner for his 25th goal of the season with what was the third of three chances in three minutes.

The goal even had the royal seal of approval as the cameras panned to a jubilant Prince William and Prince George in the stands but the visitors should have gone into the break level with Martinez denying Edon Zhergova, Diakite and Jonathan David, who all had one-on-one chances.

Villa began the second half brighter and made it count, albeit with a slice of luck. 

Lille pulled a goal back as Bafode Diakite flicked in a header from Angel Gomes' cross

Lille pulled a goal back as Bafode Diakite flicked in a header from Angel Gomes’ cross

Lille defender Gabriel Gudmundsson had an effort ruled out for offside in the second-half

Lille defender Gabriel Gudmundsson had an effort ruled out for offside in the second-half

Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez produced several saves to deny the French side

Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez produced several saves to deny the French side

MATCH FACTS AND RATINGS

Aston Villa (4-4-1-1): Martinez 9; Konsa 6, Carlos 6, Torres 6, Digne 6 (Moreno 74, 5); Bailey 7 (Diaby 74, 5), Tielemans 7 (Iroegbunam 82), Luiz 7, Rogers 6 (Zaniolo 66, 5); McGinn 8; Watkins 8 (Duran 82).

Subs unused: Gauci, Olsen, Kesler-Hayden, Kellyman.

Goals: Watkins 13, McGinn 56

Bookings: Luiz, Tielemans

Manager: Unai Emery 7

Lille (4-2-3-1): Chevalier 7; Santos 6, Yoro 6, Diakite 7 (Alexsandro 87), Ismaily 6; Andre 7, Bentaleb 6; Zhegrova 6 (Yazici 60, 5), Haraldsson 7 (Cabella 78, 6), Gudmundsson 6 (Gomes 78, 5). David 6.

Subs unused: Mannone, Negrel, Cavaleiro, Morais, Bouaddi, Toure, Ferrah.

Goals: Diakite 84

Manager: Paulo Fonseca 6

Referee: Espen Eskas 6

Douglas Luiz played a short corner to Leon Bailey, who slipped as he attempted to cross but McGinn was there on the edge of the box to guide the ball perfectly into the bottom corner.

Lille thought they had pulled one back when Gabriel Gudmundsson volleyed in but VAR ruled it out for offside and there was still time for two more Martinez saves before he was finally beaten by Diakite’s header from a Lille corner. 

It was the least the visitors deserved for their efforts and left the tie finely poised.

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