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Aston Villa 4-0 Ajax: Unai Emery's team qualifies for the quarter-finals of the Europa Conference League

Ollie Watkins celebrates his goal for Aston Villa
Ollie Watkins scored six goals for Aston Villa during their Europa Conference League campaign

Aston Villa beat Ajax at a raucous Villa Park to advance to the quarter-finals of the Europa Conference League – their first appearance in the round of 16 of a major European competition since 1998.

Goals from Ollie Watkins, Leon Bailey, substitute Jhon Duran and Moussa Diaby sealed a well-deserved victory on a memorable night for Villa supporters.

After finishing 0-0 in the first leg in the Netherlands, Watkins scored his 22nd club goal of the season in all competitions when he headed superbly into Douglas Luiz's right corner in the 25th minute.

However, the England striker, named earlier on Thursday in Gareth Southgate's Three Lions squad for the Wembley friendlies against Brazil and Belgium, went off in the 33rd minute with an injury.

Four-time European champions Ajax came close to equalizing in the fifth minute of first-half injury time, but Matty Cash did an excellent job clearing Brian Brobbey's effort off the line with goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez well beaten.

Ajax were led by England midfielder Jordan Henderson in his first club match in the country since leaving Liverpool last summer to join Saudi side Al-Ettifaq, later joining the 'Ajax in January.

But Henderson lost possession in the build-up to Villa's second goal, with Bailey producing great skill and two passes to create space before drilling into the net.

Ajax had midfielder Sivert Mannsverk sent off for two bookable offenses in the 66th minute and Duran scored a third goal, the ball going under the crossbar. Diaby scored a fourth goal nine minutes from time to confirm his progress.

The draw for the Europa Conference League quarter-finals, semi-finals and final will take place on Friday 15 March from 13:00 GMT at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, and you can follow live commentary on the BBC Sport website.

Euro star Emery guides Villa to memorable night

Unai Emery has won the Europa League four times in his career – three times with Sevilla (2014, 2015 and 2016) and once with Villarreal (2021) – and also took Arsenal to the final in 2019.

This result continues his incredible work at Villa, who were only out of the Premier League relegation zone on goal difference when they sacked Steven Gerrard and brought in the Spaniard. Emery won 15 of his 25 league matches to take the club to seventh place and back in Europe after a 13-year absence.

But Villa, winners of the European Cup in 1982, will now play in a major European quarter-final for the first time since being eliminated on away goals in the UEFA Cup last 16 against Atletico Madrid. 26 years ago.

Before the match, Emery called the match “a wonderful new opportunity against one of the greatest and most historic clubs in European football”, adding “this is what Villa Park was created for”.

He urged the supporters to play their part, and they certainly did with a match played in a superb atmosphere in a sold-out stadium.

After an interactive live pre-match show, pitchside flamethrowers and fireworks to whip the home fans into a frenzy, Villa were the better team and had seen Bailey and Diaby go close before Watkins doesn't score.

The striker had already required lengthy treatment after slipping and catching visiting goalkeeper Diant Ramaj, with Watkins only able to continue after his left leg and knee were heavily strapped with a cut as cause.

But Watkins, who scored three goals in nine appearances for England, still had time to make his mark.

He scored his goal superbly, but soon after he had to be helped off the field by Bailey, with Villa and England chasing the Champions League hoping his injury was not serious, especially with the start of the 'Euro 24 in exactly three months.

Watkins' replacement Duran fired just wide with two efforts, before Villa ran riot with three second-half goals to seal their passage to the next round.

A difficult return to England for Henderson

Henderson and uncapped Villa defender Ezri Konsa were also named in the England squad, although Konsa did not feature at Villa Park as he was suspended following a red card in the first leg in the Netherlands. Down.

Henderson, with 81 England caps, was booed every time he touched the ball by the home fans, who also called him “greedy” in reference to his Saudi gesture.

It has been a struggle in the Netherlands so far for the 33-year-old, who captained Liverpool to Champions League glory in 2019. He has now played eight times for Ajax and has only won only once, with five draws and two defeats.

He played a delicious first-time ball over the top only for Brobbey to be denied by some excellent defending, but he was also crucially deprived of possession before Villa's second goal as it proved be a painful evening for the Englishman.

Player of the match

McGinnJohn McGinn

Aston Villa

  1. Squad number7Player NameMcGinn

  2. Squad number8Player NameTielemans

  3. Squad number11Player NameWatkins

  4. Squad number31Player NameBailey

  5. Squad number47Player NameIroegbun

  6. Squad number24Player NameDurán

  7. Squad number6Player NameDouglas Luiz

  8. Squad number17Player NameLenglet

  9. Squad number71Player NameKellyman

  10. Squad number19Player NameDiaby

  11. Squad number14Player NameP Torres

  12. Squad number3Player NameDiego Carlos

  13. Squad number15Player Nameto Lex Moreno

  14. Squad number1Player NameE Martinez

  15. Squad number2Player NameSpecies

  16. Squad number27Player NameRogers

Ajax

  1. Squad number6Player NameHenderson

  2. Squad numbertenPlayer NameApocalypse

  3. Squad number9Player NameBrobbé

  4. Squad number2Player NameRensch

  5. Squad number40Player NameRama

  6. Squad number37Player NameA foundry

  7. Squad number25Player NameSosa

  8. Squad number8Player NameTaylor

  9. Squad number4Player NameHere

  10. Squad number38Player NameHlynsson

  11. Squad number13Player NameKaplan

  12. Squad number16Player NameMan's work

  13. Squad number3Player NamePursue

  14. Squad number33Player NameTahirovic

Compositions

Aston Villa

Training 4-4-2

  • 1E Martinez
  • 2Species
  • 3Diego CarlosReplaced byLenglethas 74'minutes
  • 14P Torres
  • 15Moreno
  • 31BaileyReplaced byIroegbunhas 74'minutes
  • 7McGinn
  • 6Douglas LuizReplaced byKellymanhas 83'minutes
  • 27RogersBooked at 11 minutesReplaced byTielemanshas 45'minutes
  • 19Diaby
  • 11WatkinsBooked at 19 minutesReplaced byDuránhas 33'minutes

Substitutes

  • 8Tielemans
  • 12Worthy
  • 17Lenglet
  • 18Gauci
  • 24Durán
  • 25Olsen
  • 29Kesler-Hayden
  • 47Iroegbun
  • 71Kellyman

Ajax

Training 3-4-2-1

  • 40Rama
  • 37A foundryReplaced byPursuehas 68'minutes
  • 13KaplanReplaced byApocalypsehas 39'minutes
  • 4Here
  • 2RenschReplaced byTahirovichas 79'minutes
  • 6Henderson
  • 16Man's workBooked at 66 minutes
  • 25Sosa
  • 38Hlynsson
  • 8Taylor
  • 9Brobbé

Substitutes

  • 1To roll
  • 3Pursue
  • tenApocalypse
  • 11Forbes Borges
  • 18Medical
  • 19Rijkhoff
  • 21van den Boomen
  • 22Pass the pen
  • 24Your
  • 28Fitz Jim
  • 33Tahirovic
  • 39Gods

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