Aston Villa delivered a commanding performance against Sheffield United, reclaiming their spot in the Premier League’s top four with a resounding triumph that keeps the Blades firmly entrenched at the bottom of the table.
Unai Emery’s team dominated the struggling hosts at Bramall Lane, securing a commanding lead with four goals within the opening half-hour. John McGinn, Ollie Watkins, Leon Bailey, and Youri Tielemans all found the net, with Alex Moreno adding a fifth in the second half.
McGinn opened the scoring in the 12th minute, capitalizing on a goal-line clearance by Blades captain Anel Ahmedhodzic to slot the ball into the empty net. Watkins then extended the lead, confidently finding the bottom corner after receiving an exquisite outside-of-the-boot pass from Douglas Luiz.
The situation grew increasingly dire for Chris Wilder’s side as Bailey curled in a sublime third goal within 20 minutes, prompting some home supporters to leave early.
Villa continued their offensive onslaught, and Tielemans, having seen a shot cleared off the line, unleashed a powerful strike from the edge of the box after a subsequent corner to make it 4-0.
Bramall Lane continued to empty, and just 83 seconds into the second half, Moreno volleyed in Watkins’ cross, extending the lead to 5-0.
Despite Villa’s attempts to add more goals, substitute Moussa Diaby’s fierce strike was saved by Foderingham. Sheffield United’s hopes for a late consolation were dashed when Vinicius Souza’s injury-time finish was disallowed for offside.
Victory moved Villa level on points with second-placed Manchester City and Arsenal directly above them, although they have played more games than both of those sides.
But for Sheffield United, now 10 points from safety, the picture appears increasingly gloomy.
Five-star Villa maintain top-four push
Villa had not triumphed over Sheffield United in the top division in thirty years, having previously done so in April 1994. However, they put a strong end to that wait on Saturday night.
Although Emery’s team had only won once in their previous five league games coming into Sheffield, they had only picked up five points in that stretch. However, an incredible start to the season has made sure they are still very much in the running for a Champions League spot.
Tottenham overtook Villa in fourth place after Newcastle’s midweek loss, but Villa bounced back from that setback, like they have done after all five of their losses this year, by defeating Sheffield United once more.
With his goal and two assists in this game, Watkins (28 years old) became the first player to reach double figures for goals (11) and assists (10) in the Premier League this season. Watkins is still making an impression as he attempts to earn a spot in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for Euro 2024 this summer.
Bailey also shone in a fluid Villa attack which repeatedly sliced open the hosts’ defence with ease, the Jamaica forward displaying his quality in front of goal with a well-taken finish in a complete performance.
Villa threatened to humiliate the hosts when Moreno made it five shortly after half-time, but that tally was enough to give Villa their biggest away win in the Premier League since April 2008 as Emery’s side comfortably saw out victory.
“I’m happy because before the match we were very focused to react [to the Newcastle loss]. We scored goals, created chances and stopped them,” Emery told BBC Sport.
“We have to try to focus each match. We’re really happy. Our aggression was fantastic.”
Dismal Blades outclassed and in trouble
Sheffield United found themselves outmatched in every aspect, and based on this performance, their prospects for an immediate return to the Championship seem inevitable.
In Premier League history, the three previous teams with as few as 10 points at this stage have all faced relegation. The Blades now appear increasingly likely to follow suit. Instead of the much-needed turnaround in form, they suffered a significant setback, particularly to their confidence.
With only two wins this season, a winless streak of seven league games, and conceding the most goals at this stage in a top-flight campaign since 1965-66, Sheffield United is facing a challenging situation.
By the 30-minute mark, seats were quickly emptying, accompanied by loud boos at the final whistle.
Under Wilder’s management, they have now lost 31 of their last 40 Premier League games, with only one win in eight games since his reappointment in early December.
Their only threatening phase occurred in the final 15 minutes, during which Emiliano Martinez made a crucial double save and Jack Robinson had an attempt cleared off the line.
But there were few positives for Wilder, who made five changes from the midweek loss to Crystal Palace, and his players must now recover for a crucial trip to fellow promoted side Luton Town next weekend.
“We have to apologise to our supporters because they’ve been superb. We’ve let them down this evening,” said Wilder.
“I don’t think there’s anything to take out of today’s performance. Nothing at all. We’ve been well and truly pumped.”