The Villa’s steady progress in the Carabao Cup (League Cup) continued as they faced, and beat, a heavily rotated Brighton side.
Under rotation of their own, Villa fielded a second-string side with many players hoping to play their way into Dean Smith’s favour. This result will have certainly helped that goal.
Aston Villa went close early on with Keinan Davis playing in Conor Hourihane - but the Irishman’s shot flew over the crossbar. Jota mirrored Hourihane shortly after, and clipped his own shot over the bar. Jota threatened once again with a volley following a Douglas Luiz through-ball.
If you think the Spaniard has enjoyed far too many mentions in this match report already, enjoy another. Villa’s first goal came from him combining with Hourihane who slammed a late cross in, which fell to Jota. The winger buried it, third time being the charm. In truth, it was all too easy for him to score, with the entire defence rolling to Hourihane’s side, leaving Jota an open avenue to shoot into.
Hourihane would become involved again after Jota’s opener - doubling up once more with Keinan Davis to find a shooting position within the box. Hourihane sparked the ball into the goal with his left-foot to take Villa’s lead on the night to three. It was all too easy for Hourihane after Davis’s driving run into the box opened up the time and space for Hourihane to shoot and score. Two goals, two worked chances by the left flank - and enough to send Villa into the half-time break with a comfortable lead, and dominance on the pitch.
Villa put their best foot forward once more in the second-half, with John McGinn and Trezeguet questioning Brighton’s David Button in goal with two solid efforts. Trezeguet involved himself again, finding Ezri Konsa from a corner, but the young defender could only head wide from close range.
With Villa failing to capitalise on their corners, Brighton were able to show them just how to do it. Haydon Roberts towered to send a header past Jed Steer in the Villa goal from an in-swinging corner ball to bring Brighton back into the game.
Fans of substitutions will be happy to note that Aston Villa’s first change came at 66 minutes, with John McGinn making way for Jack Grealish, which is two minutes quicker than Ahmed Elmohamady’s switch with Trezeguet on Sunday. What’s more, Grealish’s introduction had a tangible impact on the game. He bagged Villa’s third goal of the night to ease the concerns of a collapse following Haydon Robert’s header. Grealish was able to capitalise on another cleared cross in the Brighton box, slamming it home with a simple effort after plucking the ball out of the sky in that way that he does. Fans of substitutions will be even happier to note that Villa brought on Jacob Ramsey for Trezeguet on the 80th minute.
Considering the striker - Keinan Davis continued his impressive cup campaign tonight, but was unable to bag a goal himself - first he hit a late shot that glossed over the crossbar on it’s way out of play, before another effort was saved. He’s getting better with each game and the young forward is certainly knocking on the door.
Villa’s hunger for the ball against a younger side lacking experience and confidence shone out, with the away side finding their feet after a tricky Premier League tie on the weekend. It was almost ‘business as usual’ for Dean Smith’s men, who could play the ball out from the back and attack with speed and comfort. It will likely be noted by Smith that his side couldn’t always translate that comfort into goals - or even clear cut chances.
It’d be a good idea to factor context into our post-match elation - this is a strong Villa side when compared to the U23 lineup that Brighton put out - but no win can be taken for granted at this stage, and certain players won’t be looking past their performances. Conor Hourihane will feel that he has played himself back into the starting line-up, while Jota and Trezeguet managed to showcase their own abilities. They won’t be taking this for granted, so neither should we - and a win, is a win.
Villa will now progress into the fourth round of the Carabao Cup, where they could face an opponent from a lower-league, such as Colchester United - or Premier League opposition in the vein of Arsenal. The draw will conclude shortly and we’ll have the result of that on site.
This is the furthest that Aston Villa have progressed in the League Cup for a while, they haven’t seen the fourth round of the tournament since Tim Sherwood’s Villa were knocked out by Southampton in 2015. Dean Smith will head forwards with plenty of food for thought. Villa will head home with a refreshed optimism.