Brighton 1 Aston Villa 2
For all the “he will, won’t he?” around England’s World Cup strikers, Danny Ings’ name wasn’t even mentioned in passing. Rightly so; for most of his short career at Aston Villa, Ings has fallen well short of the expectations attached to his £25m price tag.
His 34 goals in 67 top-flight appearances for Southampton led to the transfer; Holte End heroics and a push for tournament football would have been the plan. It has transcended in a very different way. With that latest ambition surely gone, Villa must be his priority.
Afternoons like this, when his brace either side of half-time helped set up a come-from-behind win, will help. But for an illness that saw Ollie Watkins miss out entirely, Ings would have started on the bench. Instead, for the first time this season Villa’s traveling supporters celebrated victory on the road. They chanted “Yippee-ia” gleefully as Unai Emery’s side took out Alexis Mac Allister’s opener to give the new manager wins in his first two league games.
Even with the success that Brighton enjoyed under Graham Potter, there were often empty pockets of seats at the Amex. At times, particularly for much of last season, value for money was certainly poor. But it already feels that Roberto De Zerbi brought with him a different brand, an organized chaos. They will score more, concede more, and he will orchestrate it energetically from within – and often from outside – his technical area.
So, while defeat will hurt, Brighton should take heart in the fact that as the bugles sounded to mark Remembrance Sunday, there were no seats. A good thing too; they advanced in a minute.
In Villa’s Carabao Cup defeat at Old Trafford on Thursday, the blame was laid, quite literally, at the feet of Robin Olsen. With the return of Emiliano Martínez, playing from the back was not expected to be problematic.
But while he and Douglas Luiz may bicker over the apportionment of blame, the fact is that the latter did not expect to receive it short from Martinez on the edge of the box in the first place, and then he did not know that Mac Allister was panting. neck He picked Douglas Luiz’s pocket (the VAR saw it as legal) and planted the ball in front of Martínez.
Having started as men in possession last week, Villa struggled for possession throughout from the start. But Emi Buendía’s sumptuous ball split Levi Colwill, who made his league debut, and Lewis Dunk. John McGinn got there first; Dunk’s lunge was awkward; Ings scored the penalty in the middle.
Despite the draw, there was a nervousness in the Villa backline. They looked more confident going forward, but Emery’s philosophy of playing from the back will need some settling. Tyrone Mings was shaky, never more than when Solly March turned 360 degrees; a manipulation resulted in Mings getting a reservation.
Brighton continued to dance forward, to change play quickly, to try corner routines. But for all the aesthetic pleasure, the goal action was limited.
The reversal of the score was completed shortly after the break. Matty Cash raced towards the byline and his cross was met by a diving Buendía, whose header crashed against the post. Danger averted? Well, no, Brighton didn’t clear up and, would you believe it, there was redemption of a sort for Douglas Luiz. On this occasion it was Mac Allister who escaped on the edge of the area and Douglas Luiz got the boot. Possession fell to Ings, who finished off the back leg of Colwill.
Brighton roared loudly for a penalty of their own when, with 20 minutes remaining, Lucas Digne was slow to clear. March, a live wire, appeared out of nowhere and got a toe on the ball, and Digne’s left foot appeared to clear it. The VAR looked but didn’t tell Chris Kavanagh to take another look; De Zerbi was, not for the first time in the afternoon, animated.
She became nervous. Brighton pushed on; Villa sat deeper and deeper. Out came the dark arts, the visitors breaking the game open with a series of cynical fouls. Just before eight minutes of added time, the unmarked Colwill headed Mac Allister’s cross in spectacular fashion.
And then it was over. What fun it was. Oh, and on the World Cup clock, no one got hurt.