Digne goal helps Aston Villa claim victory at Luton

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In a thrilling turn of events, Lucas Digne secured a late winning goal, boosting Aston Villa’s hold on a Champions League spot and nullifying Luton Town’s comeback efforts.

Villa appeared to be in firm control, courtesy of Ollie Watkins’ two goals in the first half, suggesting they might extend their lead further.

The England striker opened the scoring by heading in from Leon Bailey’s corner and then swiftly doubled Villa’s advantage by converting Douglas Luiz’s lofted pass.

Initially ruled offside by the officials, the second goal was eventually awarded after a Video Assistant Referee (VAR) review.

Luton, who had not managed a single shot until injury time in the first half, emerged revitalized after the break.

Tahith Chong ignited hope with a goal following a scramble in the box, and Carlton Morris leveled the score with a composed volley from Alfie Doughty’s free-kick.

Morris even had an opportunity to clinch victory for Luton, but his header went straight into the hands of Emiliano Martinez.

However, it was Digne who capitalized on the momentum shift, heading in a cross from fellow substitute Moussa Diaby to secure the win for Villa.

With their fourth-place position, Villa now hold an 11-point lead over Manchester United in sixth, with fifth place likely to secure a Champions League berth next season.

Meanwhile, Luton remains four points behind Nottingham Forest, still in pursuit of safety.

Watkins’ fine form continues

Watkins has emerged as arguably the most influential player in the Premier League this season. The 28-year-old stands alone as the sole player to have reached double figures in both goals and assists in England’s top flight.

His brace at Kenilworth Road propels his tally to 16 Premier League goals, marking the highest seasonal total of his career and trailing only behind Manchester City sensation Erling Haaland.

Despite Villa’s earlier missed opportunities, Watkins managed to find space in the box to connect with Bailey’s corner for his first goal. This partnership has yielded seven Premier League goals this season, surpassing any other duo.

Watkins’ second goal also originated from a set-piece, with Luiz executing a swift free-kick from the halfway line that Watkins controlled adeptly before slotting home off the post. Initially flagged for offside, a VAR review confirmed Chiedozie Ogbene’s position kept Watkins onside, validating his seventh league goal of 2024.

With this achievement, Watkins joins an elite group comprising Christian Benteke, Dwight Yorke, and Juan Pablo Angel as the only players to score 16 goals in a Premier League season for Villa.

Although presented with a clear opportunity for a hat-trick in the second half courtesy of Morgan Rogers, Watkins’ effort was saved. Nonetheless, Villa appeared in control until the dying moments when Diaby and Digne, introduced in a quadruple substitution after 79 minutes, combined to secure three crucial points, bolstering their Champions League aspirations.

Luton are still battling

In their debut season in the Premier League since the 1992 rebrand, Luton has had a remarkably impressive campaign, still harboring hopes of survival while Burnley and Sheffield United, their fellow promoted teams from last season, face near-certain relegation.

Furthermore, with Everton and Nottingham Forest – the two teams directly above them – potentially facing points deductions for breaching spending regulations, Luton could gain an additional advantage.

Despite struggling in the first 45 minutes due to injuries, a recurring issue throughout the season, Luton appeared out of contention in this game.

An early injury to Amari’i Bell forced them to field players out of position in defense, but their fortunes improved with the introduction of Japanese defender Daiki Hashioka, who made his Premier League debut.

Chong reignited hope for Luton shortly after Reece Burke’s attempt was cleared off the line by Matty Cash, and seven minutes later, Carlton Morris leveled the score.

Following Digne’s decisive header, Luton had one final opportunity, but Teden Mengi’s header went over the bar five minutes into stoppage time.