‘One Moment’ is a rebooted post-game Aston Villa column that takes a closer look at one single moment from the last Villa game. This week, we’re looking at the moment when Douglas Luiz bottled lighting and struck his first Villa goal into the net.
For Douglas Luiz, the biggest match in his career thus far - a chance to showcase his abilities at the highest level - couldn’t have started any poorer. So poor in fact, that he was caught looking to the sky for forgiveness.
The opposition had been allowed to run riot, and had capitalised on two mistakes. After Villa’s defence showed a solitary soft-touch to offer Bournemouth a run into the box, Tom Heaton emerged from his goalmouth and clattered an onrushing Callum Wilson to afford Bournemouth a penalty. Josh King stepped up and smashed it home to take a lead within two minutes.
These things happen though. Chaos emerges onto the football pitch through the entrance created by nerves or tired legs. You need calm heads, reassurance and serenity to steady the ship in stormy waters. Teams give away early goals - and it’s not a sign of weakness. It’s football.
Douglas Luiz was perhaps too cool though. As Villa tried to play from deep to escape a high-press, he allowed the ball to run through his legs to a team-mate. It’d have been a brilliant display of trickery to ease the pressure on his team - had a Villa player been there. Luiz passed to a shadow and allowed Harry Wilson onto the ball in the face of goal. If you give Harry Wilson half a chance, he’s going to gun you down in glorious fashion. The Welshman slays dragons and Luiz couldn’t have offered him a bigger dragon to smite - and a larger sword to smite with - than he did. The move ended with Wilson shooting though a helpless Tyrone Mings into the goal to double Bournemouth’s lead, but it truly ended when Luiz stepped over the ball and allowed it to trickle into endless time and possibility.
All of this, within twelve minutes. Douglas Luiz may not be fully culpable for the penalty, but he will certainly have to hold up his hands for the eventual winning goal. A display of gentle flamboyance where the use of might was warranted sentenced Villa to a second loss in a row.
It didn’t get much better for Douglas though, not for a while. He couldn’t help but hide from play for the next few minutes. You could tell that Douglas Luiz wanted the ground to open up and swallow him whole. Like Willem Dagoe in Platoon, if only he could drop to the floor and raise his arms to the sky, begging for an escape. The Brazilian midfielder wouldn’t need anyone else’s help but his own to redeem himself, however. His escape from his own mistakes was won through determination and hard-work and not through a martyr’s collapse.
With Villa pushing into dominance late on, but still chasing a goal, Luiz stepped up to resolve the matter with his own abilities. After starting the match as a shadow, the Brazilian started to steal the sunlight from other players and forced his involvement in all three phases of play. His moment? It’s the moment that a Brazilian player scored for Aston Villa for the very first time in history.
The clock had just ticked over seventy. Jack Grealish thrust the ball to his feet - and Luiz, sitting deep, paused before making his decision on the ball. As Luiz received the ball, the entire Bournemouth back-line swarmed forward. Cautiously, Douglas rolled the ball away from himself before wrapping his foot around it. It flew forwards, through the swarm of shirts and into the net with a slap. Luiz didn’t even seem surprised as the Holte End rose in screaming, adoring adulation. Douglas sprinted into the centre of the field mouth open wide, drinking in the praise and plaudits while beating his fists against an imaginary aerial oppressor.
At the end of his celebration, as he calmed down, Luiz made the sign of the cross and whispered a short prayer. He needn’t look to the sky for assistance anymore, nor will he need to enforce penance upon himself. There is no need to confess for his sins, nor beat himself to the brink because of a mistake. He has been gifted with divine feet, technical ability that can earn forgiveness in a moment. He won’t be judged on his mistakes, but his ability to punish others in the way of his path to seek out redemption. He’ll dole out the judgement, he’ll hammer the nails in.
Villa enjoyed a resolute fight-back after conceding two goals. There is reason to move forward from this match thinking of the positives - and that’s down to players like Douglas, and the moments they created through sheer force-of-will when the odds were well and truly against them. Douglas will surely produce more moments of magic this season, but his first was one to behold. Only God can judge Douglas.