Aston Villa 3-2 Wigan: Birkir Bjarnason steals last-gasp win
Aston Villa came from behind to secure a dramatic late win
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 11/08/18 7:33pm
Birkir Bjarnason came up with an added-time winner to give Aston Villa a somewhat fortunate 3-2 success over a battling Wigan.
It is only the second time in seven years that Villa have won their opening home game and it was achieved in a dramatic finish.
Skipper James Chester gave Villa an early lead which was cancelled out in the 41st minute by Nick Powell. Callum Connolly added a second early in the second half only for Chey Dunkley to concede an own goal before Bjarnason came up with his late winner.
The other bonus for Villa was the debut of Scotland international John McGinn, signed from Hibernian. He created a very favourable impression with a confident, all-action performance just three days after heading south.
He showed great tenacity early on, working his way in from the left and when Christian Walton spilled the cross, the Wigan defence was momentarily at panic stations before the ball was cleared.
The skill of Jack Grealish, who came close to joining Tottenham in midweek, was quite obvious and he came in for some heavy tackling from the Wigan players.
Connolly was guilty of one such heavy tackle and it proved expensive for the Latics in the 13th minute as Villa steamed into the lead as a result of a brilliantly-timed header by skipper Chester. McGinn took over the responsibility for taking free-kicks and the wisdom of the move paid a handsome dividend when the Scot produced an accurate left-footed cross which was gleefully headed home.
Wigan had a quick chance for an equaliser as the advancing Antonee Robinson was put clear by Powell. Although it was an accurate shot, it lacked power and was easily dealt with by Villa's new goalkeeper Orjan Nyland.
Another good opportunity was wasted by Cedric Kipre with an aimless shot, while Jonathan Kodjia failed dismally to make contact with a low cross from the ever-dangerous Grealish.
Four minutes before the break, Powell took full advantage of a misplaced back pass by Mile Jedinak to run through unchallenged and tap the ball into an empty net.
Villa then surrendered a second goal in the 54th minute when Connolly was on hand at the far post to convert a left-wing cross from Robinson.
Fortune then turned in favour of Villa when Kipre's intended clearance in a packed goalmouth hit Dunkley and went into the Wigan net in the 63rd minute.
But in the third minute of added time Villa scrambled to victory when Bjarnason nudged home the winner following a left-wing cross from Conor Hourihane.
Steve Bruce: "Considering the way he has conducted himself over the last few days he has been a breath of fresh air. I thought the way he played highlights the reason why the Premier League want to buy him. He oozes that little bit of class which was evident against Wigan.
"You would come and watch him alone. But the referees need to protect him. It is a free-for-all at the minute. They are kicking lumps out of the kid. They are kicking lumps out of him because he is that good. He has to take it as a compliment.
"Certainly referees need to be stronger than he was against Wigan. If not, we are not going to see the talent as they will keep fouling him. He has run his socks off against Wigan after all the recent speculation. Afterwards I told him 'well done.'"
Paul Cook: "I was happy with all aspects of the game except the result. We wanted to give a good performance against Villa and I think the players did that. There were key moments in the game such as Josh Windass's header. It was a massive chance in the game.
"But Villa have some quality players and anyone of them can pop up and get a goal. We are disappointed as I feel a draw would have been a fair result. The disappointment will drive us on. I cannot ask any more of the players. I thought they were excellent."