Aston Villa and without much difficulty

Villa’s late win at Luton Town leaves Dave Woodhall relieved.

The way Villa are playing at the moment makes us the most exciting team in the league (as I keep saying). It might not be good for your heart or nerves, but it’s definitely exciting.

Luton Town are doing much better than expected this season but they’re still in the bottom three and it should be the sort of place where Champions League contenders win without much difficulty. We’re Aston Villa and we don’t do ‘without much difficulty’ (I keep saying that as well).

The team that started the game had the welcome sight of Ezri Konsa lining up and the way they played was also welcome. Jacob Ramsey had a good shot saved early on as did Ollie Watkins, both chances set up by the ever-industrious John McGinn. A goal was inevitable and it came after 24 minutes, a corner from Leon Bailey being met by the head of Watkins and steered into the net.

We then got that other footballing inevitability, a Villa injury, when Jacob Ramsey, who had been treated earlier, had to go off and was replaced by Morgan Rogers. Watkins then hit the post before a second Villa goal came on 38 minutes, when Watkins met Douglas Luiz’s long free kick and put the ball past the keeper. He was originally called offside but VAR is a wonderful invention and justice was eventually done.

Rogers then did well to win the ball and hit a shot that seemed to be headed for the top corner until yet another good save kept the score to two-nil and that was how the first half ended. It was all looking far too straightforward so for the second Saturday in row Villa decided to revert to type and allow opponents from the other end of the table back into the match.

The first Luton goal came when the ball was cleared off the Villa line from a corner but instead of getting rid properly it was put back into the goalmouth and scrambled over the line. Six minutes later another long free kick was played up and for once Villa’s defensive line was slow to react Two-two, eighteen minutes plus the usual lengthy stoppages left, a referee who was favouring the home side and the rest of the match was suddenly looking a lot harder.

Unai Emery made a quadruple substitution that involved taking off Morgan Rogers, who could have easily scored three goals since his arrival but was now looking like a sending-off waiting to happen. There were seconds of normal time remaining when Moussa Diaby, one of the substitutes, sent over a cross that was met by another substitute, Lucas Digne. That’s one of the reasons why Emery is a genius.

Just the seven minutes added on and at the end of them Villa were three points closer to the Champions League. It would be good to get there without much more drama, although there’s about as much chance of that as there is of putting out a full-strength team. It’s no exaggeration to say that the next couple of weeks could be the most significant time Villa have faced for years. If nothing else, the past two matches have shown that in addition to making it hard for themselves, this team can also grind out wins that they might not entirely deserve.