Matt Maher: Aston Villa victory is the perfect response to Euro setback
In a season which has already seen ups and downs, this was Villa’s best day to date.
Faced with their tightest turnaround so far, kicking off at Stamford Bridge fewer than 72 hours after starting their Europa Conference League campaign in such underwhelming fashion, Unai Emery’s team delivered a performance much more akin to the type which saw them climb the Premier League in such impressive fashion last term.
It wasn’t perfect but against an expensively assembled yet distinctly average Chelsea, it didn’t need to be.
Villa rode their luck at times, were indebted to Emi Martinez for several key saves but also had no shortage of the grit and spirit perhaps absent in those heavy defeats at Newcastle and Liverpool.
Thursday’s loss at Legia Warsaw had reopened questions about Villa’s fortitude away from home and so this win, which came with the season’s first clean sheet on the road, can only be seen as an impressive response and encouraging step forward.
The fact Villa remain far from the finished article is perhaps the biggest cause for cheer. Emery later described his team as remaining “under construction” – a more than fair comment considering the summer recruitment and subsequent reshuffle caused by cruel long-term injuries to Emi Buendia and Tyrone Mings. A return of four wins from the opening six league matches and a place in the top six of the table is, therefore, a more than handy foundation to build on.