Aston Villa picked up a massive advantage over Hibernian in a Europa Conference League playoff on Wednesday. The Premier League side thumped Hibs in Scotland 5-0 thanks in part to a hat trick by Ollie Watkins. Leon Bailey and Douglas Luiz also added goals for the ruthless Villa team on the night. The only issue for the visitors was the fact that starting goalkeeper Emi Martinez had to be substituted at halftime due to a minor injury.
Wednesday’s matchup was particularly interesting for Villa captain John McGinn. The Scottish international previously played three seasons with Hibs from 2015-2018. Home fans, however, did not exactly give their former player a warm welcome.
Villa started the match in Edinburgh on the front foot. The visitors had three significant chances to get on the scoreboard inside the first 15 minutes. This includes chances by Lucas Digne, Moussa Diaby, and Luiz. Nevertheless, the English side finally went ahead in the 17th minute of the match.
Villa piles on pressure after fast start to Europa Conference playoff
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The aforementioned Digne sent a perfect cross into the box towards Watkins. The striker then managed to get in between two Hibs defenders and guide the ball into the bottom corner of the net with a clever header. It was the dynamic forward’s first goal of the current campaign after failing to score in each of his club’s two Premier League matches.
Watkins would then double Villa’s lead in the 33rd minute with another header. The goal was created after a well-worked corner routine. Center-back Diego Carlos flicked the ball onto an onrushing Watkins at the far post. The England international converted the shot from short-range into the open net.
Digne picked up his second assist of the day with another dangerous cross into the opposition’s box just before halftime. While the goal would come from yet another header, it would be Bailey this time to add to Villa’s lead. The Jamaica international was picked out at the far post and leaped highest among the Hibs defenders. Bailey put the ball in the back of the net from only about a yard away.
Watkins grabs third goal as Digne provides third assist
Watkins would complete his hat trick in the early stages of the second half. And the goal would once again be created by left-back Digne. The Frenchman put yet another quality cross into the box directly at his teammate’s feet. Watkins was able to get a toe on the ball before the goalkeeper could reach it.
The goal was originally chalked off for offside, but VAR intervened to correctly reverse the decision. It was the first hat trick for Watkins since Villa’s shock 7-2 victory against Liverpool in 2020.
Second-half substitute Bertrand Traore then earned his club a penalty after some slick footwork inside the Hibs box. Luiz stepped up and easily converted the spot kick in the 74th minute of the match. It was the midfielder’s second goal of the campaign after he also scored against Everton on Sunday.
Hibs will now try to get something out of the return fixture in England. The two teams face off in the second leg of the tie on Thursday, August 31st. The eventual winner will then advance on to the Europa Conference League group stage.
PHOTO: IMAGO / Sportimage
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