Luiz brace helps Aston Villa beat Nottingham Forest

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Douglas Luiz netted two goals as Aston Villa delivered an exhilarating offensive performance, securing a victory against Nottingham Forest at Villa Park and claiming all three points.

Villa seized the lead in the fourth minute when Ollie Watkins converted his 14th Premier League goal of the season, capitalizing on excellent play from Leon Bailey down the right flank.

Luiz then found the net twice within a span of 10 minutes. First, he slotted home a pass from Jacob Ramsey in the 29th minute, followed by a header from John McGinn’s cross from the right wing.

Moussa Niakhate scored his maiden goal for Forest just before halftime, chesting the ball into the net. However, Morgan Gibbs-White extended Villa’s lead three minutes into the second half with a delicate chip over Emi Martinez, who had advanced from his goal.

Bailey sealed the victory for the hosts by tapping in a rebound after Watkins’ shot was saved, following Forest’s loss of possession in their own half.

With this result, fourth-placed Villa now enjoy a five-point advantage over Tottenham, who have no fixtures this weekend, and an eight-point cushion over sixth-placed Manchester United, who suffered a 2-1 defeat against Fulham at Old Trafford.

Forest, on the other hand, remain in 16th place, holding a four-point lead over the relegation zone.

Villa get home form back on track

Villa’s surge toward Champions League qualification, and even being considered title contenders a few weeks ago, was primarily fueled by their exceptional home record, where they remained unbeaten for 17 games and secured victory in 16.

Their recent dip in form coincided with the end of this impressive home streak, marked by consecutive losses to Newcastle and Manchester United.

This victory was secured during a thrilling opening half-hour, during which Villa consistently posed threats down their right flank.

The first goal occurred when Bailey skillfully maneuvered past Murillo, delivering a cross that slipped past Felipe and set up Watkins for a straightforward tap-in.

Both of Luiz’s goals originated from the same side, with Ramsey demonstrating exceptional composure to find the Brazilian midfielder, and McGinn providing a precise cross.

With three goals scored in the first half, Villa has now notched up a league-leading 27 goals in the opening period this season.

Unai Emery may rue the goals his side conceded, as Niakhete and Gibbs-White were allowed unopposed attempts on goal.

Nevertheless, with the prospect of Europa Conference League football on the horizon in a fortnight, he will likely appreciate the gap his team is creating over their competitors.

Enforced change sees Forest exploited

Forest had amassed 10 points from Nuno Espirito Santo’s first eight games in charge, but they were thoroughly outplayed by Villa in this match.

They were forced into one change from their victory over West Ham the previous weekend, as Nuno Tavares was sidelined due to injury. Villa capitalized on this by exploiting the presence of centre-back Niakhete at left-back.

Niakhete frequently found himself out of position, which pulled centre-backs Murillo and Felipe wider and resulted in both of them receiving first-half bookings.

Nuno displayed evident frustration with his team’s performance in the first half, opting to make three substitutions at halftime. Although his team showed improvement in the second half, Villa’s goal by Bailey was a result of effective pressing.

Forest has now scored 17 Premier League goals during Nuno’s tenure, the same as in the first 17 games of the season under Steve Cooper. This is a positive sign as they head into the final stretch of the season.

However, their Premier League status could be jeopardized by the outcome of the charges against the club for alleged violations of profit and sustainability regulations in their 2022-23 accounts.