EPL

Aston Villa maintain Champions League charge with comfortable win over Wolves

By Sports Desk March 30, 2024

Aston Villa maintained their pursuit of Champions League qualification with a 2-0 win over Wolves at Villa Park.

Unai Emery's men had been knocked down into fifth by Tottenham’s late win over Luton earlier on Saturday but they responded in style in the midlands derby.

Moussa Diaby notched his first Premier League goal of 2024 to open the scoring in the first half before Ezri Konsa celebrated his recent England debut with a rare strike, though it was a fluke.

He will not care too much about that as his side climbed back up into fourth position, three points above Spurs, as they chase qualification to Europe’s premier club competition for the first time.

It was also an important victory considering they visit Manchester City in midweek, but the one worry will be the condition of Ollie Watkins, who did not reappear after the half-time interval.

Wolves, so depleted of attacking options they were forced to hand a Premier League debut to 18-year-old striker Leon Chiwome, will regret the glaring chance missed by Rayan Ait-Nouri early in the game as they slipped to a defeat which damages their own hopes of qualifying for Europe.

Villa knew exactly what they had to do after Spurs’ late rally and thought they had made the perfect start when Douglas Luiz forced the ball home after Jose Sa had saved from Watkins, but the England striker was offside and the goal was chalked off.

Wolves should have been celebrating going in front as they spurned a golden chance in the 15th minute.

Santiago Bueno’s cross from the right made it through to an unmarked Ait-Nouri at the far post, but Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez got across brilliantly to deny a certain goal.

Villa began to up the intensity and Watkins had the sort of opportunity he usually gobbles up as Youri Tielemans played him through on goal, but this time he clipped into the side-netting.

Pau Torres then glanced a header straight at Sa before Villa’s dominance was rewarded with a 36th-minute breakthrough.

Luiz’s free-kick was fizzed back across goal by Leon Bailey and, with the aid of a deflection, the ball fell perfectly for Diaby, who lashed home from the edge of the area to end his league drought.

Watkins’ half-time exit disrupted Villa’s fluency after the restart and they needed a huge dollop of luck to double their lead in the 65th minute.

A sweeping move saw the ball played out to Konsa on the overlap and he skewed his chipped cross from the right byline over the head of Sa and in off the far post.

Nicolo Zaniolo, who was the driving force behind the second goal, then had two quickfire chances to kill the game but shot straight at Sa on both occasions.

Villa closed out the game without any issues to register an important win in the race for the top four.

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    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Luton Town - Alfie Doughty

    With 42, Doughty has created the most chances from set-plays in the Premier League this season.

    Meanwhile, only West Ham's James Ward-Prowse has registered more such assists (six) than the Luton full-back (five).

    Fulham - Andreas Pereira

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    Meanwhile, his tally of seven assists is the highest by a Cottagers player in a single term since Simon Davies in 2007-08 (eight).

    MATCH PREDICTION: DRAW

    Both sides are on winless streaks; Luton failing to win any of their last five matches, and Fulham without victory in four attempts.

    The Hatters have failed to win any of their last six league games against the Cottagers (drawn two, lost four), though both those draws have come in the two most recent meetings at Kenilworth Road. 

    Luton have only kept two clean sheets this season and conceded 81 goals – only letting more in during a top-flight campaign in 1982-83 (84).

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    The Cottagers have not won their final league game in any of the last six seasons (drawing one, losing five), with a 2-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday in 2016-17 representing their most recent such success.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Luton Town: 33.9%
    Fulham: 37.7%
    Draw: 28.4%

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