Aston Villa celebrated both a crucial victory and their manager's milestone as they defeated AZ Alkmaar in a Europa Conference League match. Unai Emery marked his 100th win in European football with the triumph, further underlining his outstanding track record in continental competition.
AZ Alkmaar took the lead after half-time with Vangelis Pavlidis' goal. However, Aston Villa quickly struck back, with Diego Carlos finding the equalizer before Ollie Watkins scored the winner in the 81st minute.
Emery expressed his satisfaction with the team's performance, stating, "When we win games like these, we can understand this competition better and our process better. We are trying to build a team to be competitive in every game we play. The reaction after we conceded was fantastic."
In a surprising twist, Villa midfielder Youri Tielemans revealed that the officials had admitted to making a mistake by disallowing Clement Lenglet's early goal. The goal was reportedly denied due to an offside call against Leon Bailey. Tielemans stated, "We've been told it was a mistake from them [to disallow a goal early on], and they apologized. In the end, we won so it’s all good."
However, AZ also felt let down by the officials, as Carlos' goal came from a corner that should have been given as a goal-kick. Emery acknowledged the error, admitting, "It was not a corner – clearly."
AZ manager Pascal Jansen expressed his frustration, saying, "We were very unfortunate to concede a corner that wasn't a corner. I contacted the fourth official and asked him what had happened, and he said he didn't know. I thought the VAR could help the referee wherever necessary, but obviously, he didn't."
With this victory, Villa now only needs a single point from their remaining two games to secure qualification from their group in the Europa Conference League. Emery's impressive winning record in European football further solidifies his status as a top-class manager in continental competitions.
Both teams displayed excellent sportsmanship throughout the match, with Villa ultimately coming out on top. Despite the contentious decisions made by the officials, the players' determination and resilience prevailed, resulting in a hard-fought victory for Aston Villa.