Soccer

Late Lucas Digne goal sees Aston Villa snatch win over battling Luton

The Hatters had fought back from two goals down.

Aston Villa’s Lucas Digne (right) is congratulated by his team-mates
Luton Town v Aston Villa – Premier League – Kenilworth Road Aston Villa’s Lucas Digne (right) is congratulated by his team-mates (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Aston Villa maintained their push for a top-four finish in the Premier League as substitute Lucas Digne headed an 89th-minute winner to defeat Luton 3-2 at Kenilworth Road.

Unai Emery’s side looked to have thrown away two points, allowing Luton to fight back from two goals down in the second half, until Digne arrived at the far post to turn Moussa Diaby’s deep cross past Thomas Kaminski and into the net, in front of ecstatic away fans.

The hosts had fought back bravely to level the game at 2-2, Tahith Chong and Carlton Morris scoring after a brace from Ollie Watkins had seemingly put Villa in control at the break.

Defeat for Rob Edwards’ side was their fourth in a row, whilst Villa maintained their five-point lead over Tottenham in the race for the Champions League.

Kaminski had been the home side’s hero in the opening quarter, first diving full stretch to turn away a right-footer from Jacob Ramsey, then yet more acrobatically when Watkins got in down the right and lashed one towards the near post, beaten behind brilliantly by the goalkeeper.

Yet his endeavours were rendered in vain a minute later when from the resulting corner Watkins headed Villa in front. Leon Bailey’s ball arched invitingly into the six-yard box where the Villa striker had got free, and he used the space afford by slack Luton marking to rise up and direct the ball coolly past Kaminski into the top corner for his 20th goal of the season.

Villa lost the influential Ramsey to injury on the half-hour mark, but it did little to break their confident stride. Watkins almost made it two 10 minutes before the break, standing up Teden Mengi on the right before knocking it round the defender and cracking a low shot off Kaminski’s far post.

Luton had been warned about Watkins’ pace in behind but their high line continued to allow him space, and soon he had made good on his threat of a second.

The defence had pushed up towards near the centre circle when Douglas Luiz lumped one over the top for Villa’s top scorer to stride on to. With no one in orange near him, he made light work of clipping Villa’s second goal in off the post. VAR checked for offside, but Watkins had timed his run perfectly.

Edwards’ side emerged with renewed urgency after the break and the home support responded in kind, roaring their team on as they began to find success attacking down the right with the lively Issa Kabore.

A goal to give them hope arrived after 66 minutes. Villa failed to deal with a corner, forcing Matt Cash into a desperate headed clearance off the line. Still the defence dithered, and as the ball ricocheted back into the six-yard box, Chong pounced to thump it home.

Suddenly Villa were tottering. Six minutes later, their lead was gone and it was the simplest Luton goal.

Alfie Doughty hit a huge, raking free-kick from near the touchline which sailed over everyone to the back post. Arriving unmarked with time to pick his spot was Morris, who timed his run expertly and with barely an upwards glance swept it beyond Martinez.

Luton were now rampant and an almost identical move gave Morris the chance to win it, fractionally failing to make the required contact as the ball was flashed across goal from Doughty’s free-kick.

They looked at least to have done enough for a point, but then came Digne’s dramatic intervention at the death to break Luton hearts and keep Villa in the Champions League driving seat.