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Aston Villa 4-0 Ajax (Agg 4-0): Villa power through to Europa Conference League quarter-finals

Match report as goals from Ollie Watkins, Leon Bailey, Jhon Duran and Moussa Diaby help Aston Villa secure a 4-0 victory over Ajax at Villa Park; Unai Emery’s side are into the last eight of the Europa Conference League but Watkins injury is a worry for Villa

Jhon Duran celebrates after scoring Aston Villa's third goal against Ajax
Image: Jhon Duran celebrates after scoring Aston Villa's third goal against Ajax

Aston Villa moved into the quarter-finals of the Europa Conference League with an emphatic 4-0 thrashing of Ajax at Villa Park that completed an aggregate win by the same score.

Ollie Watkins was forced off injured in the first half but not before heading in the breakthrough goal that put Villa in control of the tie. Leon Bailey doubled the advantage in the second half and Sivert Mannsverk's red card allowed them to pour on the misery.

Jhon Duran made it three with a wicked shot and Moussa Diaby capitalised on what was one of many Ajax errors to score the fourth. England midfielder Jordan Henderson, captaining the Eredivisie side, was booed and jeered throughout. Villa are into the last eight.

How Villa had too much for Ajax

Villa defender Matty Cash had described this "as the perfect game to bounce back" after losing 4-0 to Tottenham at the same stadium on Sunday and the home side approached the tie with the sort of intensity that the occasion - and the atmosphere - demanded.

The impressive Bailey fired wide and then Diaby rounded the goalkeeper only to see his effort cleared behind but Villa took the lead from the subsequent corner. Watkins' only task was to beat Cash to Douglas Luiz's cross as the Ajax defence watched on.

Team news

Unai Emery made four changes to the team that were well beaten by Tottenham on Sunday. Into the side came Alex Moreno, Diego Carlos, Moussa Diaby and Morgan Rogers. Jordan Henderson started for Ajax following confirmation that he had retained his England place.

Worryingly for Villa, Watkins trudged off soon after having appeared to injury himself in an incident prior to his goal when lunging in on the goalkeeper. Unai Emery's side were comfortable enough without him on the night but will surely need their talisman fit.

Aston Villa's Ollie Watkins goes down injured against Ajax and is later substituted during the UEFA Europa Conference League Round of 16, second leg match at Villa Par
Image: Aston Villa's Ollie Watkins went down injured against Ajax and was later substituted

Duran caused plenty of problems when deputising but initially struggled to find the final touch when the chances came. He left that to Bailey on the hour. The winger's double stepover did the defender and he tucked his shot away low into the corner.

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Any hope of an Ajax comeback was extinguished when Mannsverk was sent off for a second bookable offence, yanking the shirt of Duran as he attempted to chase a ball over the top. It was a dismal decision by the Ajax man, just one of a number of mistakes by his team.

More confusion allowed Duran time to finally score his goal, setting himself on the edge of the 18-yard box and firing off a fierce shot that cannoned off the underside of the bar. The fourth was similar. Another Ajax slip. Another fine finish, this time by Diaby.

It typified a ragged performance by Ajax and allowed Villa some catharsis - putting right that 4-0 defeat of their own at the weekend. Emery's side are back on track, progressing to the last eight of the Europa Conference League - and now with a great chance to win it.

Henderson: We were well beaten

“We have been beaten quite easily in the end which is disappointing,” Henderson told TNT Sports. “If we had kept it at 1-0 for longer we could have hurt them but we were well beaten in the end. Villa are a good side. Unfortunately, it was not our night.”

Watkins injury 'not more than a cut'

"We were very respectful of them," said Emery of Ajax.

"We were how we need to be to face them here, try to feel comfortable with the supporters at Villa Park, with confidence and our skills. More or less, we did it. The first half was progressively better for us. The second half was easier for us after the red card.

"I think we deserved it. We are motivated because we want to win this competition."

Emery revealed that Diego Carlos "felt his hamstring" but allayed fears over the injury to Watkins. "Not more than a cut on the knee," confirmed the Villa boss. "Maybe he could be OK for Sunday but we will have to see how he is progressing in the next two days."

Duran took his chance by coming on to score and Emery was supportive.

"Of course, we believe in him," he said.

"We have to try to give him chances to play like today. Tactically, it is very important to be disciplined. Today was very good practice for him to get confidence, experience, scoring goals and playing as well collectively with him, getting our tactical idea."

What's next?

Aston Villa are in Premier League action on Sunday as they go to the London Stadium to face West Ham; kick-off 2pm.

Unai Emery's side then return from the international break with a home game against Midlands rivals Wolves on March 30; kick-off 5.30pm, live on Sky Sports.

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