Aston Villa and it keeps happening

Villa lose to Olympiacos as Dave Woodhall is reminded of times past.

On the anniversary of Ron Saunders’ finest hour, Unai Emery used the occasion to invoke history. On the surface the two men don’t have much in common and it’s difficult to imagine what would be said between them had they ever met. It’s a lot easier to imagine what Saunders would have said if his team had turned in a horrorshow such as we witnessed at Villa Park on Thursday night.

The night had begun so promisingly. The team had received the now-customary reception on Trinity Road and by the time kick-off came round Spurs were a goal down at Chelsea. Villa were hot favourites to win the trophy and the general feeling was that we’d done the hardest part by beating Lille in the previous round. By contrast, Olympiacios were as long as 8/1 to win the first leg. We had a mosaic in the Holte and royalty watching. All was set for a memorable European night, with Emery choosing an attacking line-up and starting with Clement Lenglet in place of Pau Torres and the less than confidence-enhancing Robin Olsen replacing the injured/suspended Emiliano Martinez.

And then the match started. Villa weren’t exactly outplayed but neither did they perform to anything like their full ability. A goal down after sixteen minutes and two conceded before half an hour had passed. The script definitely wasn’t being followed.

But then things started to imprve. Moussa Diaby laid on a goal for Ollie Watkins in first-half stoppage time and hardly had Prince William settled back into his seat after the break than Diaby had levelled the score. The crowd were on their fee, the ground was bouncing and it seemed as though we were in for that memorable occasion after all.

Four minutes later Villa Park was quiet again, as Douglas Luiz conceded a needless penalty and the visitors took the lead once more. It would be too much of a cliche to call it a Greek tragedy, but the rest of the night took on an element of farce as a deflected shot gave Olympiacos a fourth, while in the dying minutes Luiz completed a night to forget for him as well as the rest of the team by missing a penalty.

It finished 4-2, but that scoreline could easily have been the other way round. Had it not been for VAR the opening goal would have been disallowed and the rest of the match might have been completely different. Villa weren’t particuarly poor; they didn’t get much luck and yet again the effects of a lengthy season are showing. There’s always a chance in the second leg although it would be a stretch to see Villa winning by two goals even if Martinez has returned by then.

It seems as though this will be yet another chance of Villa failing to win a trophy that was theirs for the taking; since those halcyon days of 1981 we seem to come up with never-ending ways of avoiding success. Perhaps Unai Emery can somehow find out the secret – as Saunders said in one of his many memorable quotes, the dividing line between success and failure is so very thin. If anyone can join him on the right side of it, Emery is the man.

2 thoughts on “Aston Villa and it keeps happening

  1. We blew it Torres should have started, I honestly don’t see us turning this around a night to forget, might as well take the kids to play the second leg and concentrate on the PL. Chelsea did us a huge favour last night against Spurs so let’s just hope that we don’t blow that as well by loosing to Brighton, it’s a must win for me,
    Having said that if we get Champions league which we should do now it is 3 levels higher than last nights oponents and how will we cope with that. Not optimistic but that’s one for the future.
    Very disappointing last night but it is what it is

  2. Champions league is nailed on so we should be able to go hard for it next week. Olympiacos deserved the win, they were well up for it, winning the 50/50s nicking the ball off us all over the park. Concentration and fitness required to win it next week. The rest will take care of itself.

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