After 13 long years, and a short spell in the Championship as they lost their Premier League ever present status, Aston Villa finally returned to European action on Wednesday evening and took a very comfortable 5-0 victory over Hibernian at Easter Road in the first leg of their Europa Conference League Qualifying Play Offs double header.
The gulf in quality was obvious for everyone, but the game did take on some special status, especially if you looked at it a with more of a historical eye. Aston Villa signed current captain, 28 year old John McGinn, from the very same club they faced, back in August of 2018, and it was not only a reunion with his former fans, his two brothers have also worn Hibernian colours in recent years.
For Villa, their fans also have a bit of a special relationship with manager Lee Johnson, and let us just leave it as there is little love lost from his time as manager of Bristol City. But Villa and Hibernian have moved on, and in moving on Villa certainly fared better under manager Unai Emery, who was adamant pre game that they would not underestimate their opponents and that they would be professional and not slip up, like many fans feared, with memories of when they faced Stevenage in the third round of the FA Cup last season and despite utterly dominating the game, they lost 2-1 in a nightmare five minute defensive spell at the end of the game.
Villa certainly learnt the lesson of being wasteful in that match, and they coped well with Hibernian’s initial flourish and then simply took charge. They secured the lead 17 minutes into the game as Ollie Watkins found the net, and the 27 year old soon added a second in the 33rd minute, before Leon Bailey made it 3-0 for the half time whistle.
Watkins then made himself the fourth Villan in their history to achieve a hattrick in European competition as he built on his brace three minutes after the second half had begun. Villa’s comprehensive and dominant victory was completed when Bertrand Traore’s trickery in the box saw him hauled down for a penalty, and Douglas Liuz dispatched his effort from the penalty spot to make it five.
In fairness, the scoreline could well have been larger given the chances that Villa did manage to fashion for themselves, but with Emery coming into this tournament stating that he wanted his team to ‘write new history’ he will have been delighted with their approach, and the pressure is very much off now for next week’s leg at Villa Park.
Image from: unsplash.com