Soccer

Villa boss Unai Emery hails Ollie Watkins as ‘an example for other players’

Watkins has scored 21 goals this season.

Ollie Watkins has 21 for the season after scoring twice in Aston Villa’s 3-2 win at Luton
Ollie Watkins Ollie Watkins has 21 for the season after scoring twice in Aston Villa’s 3-2 win at Luton (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Unai Emery hailed Ollie Watkins as one of the best strikers in Europe after his double helped Aston Villa to a dramatic 3-2 win over Luton at Kenilworth Road.

A header in the 89th minute from substitute Lucas Digne ensured Villa won for the third game in a row in the Premier League to stay five points clear of Tottenham in the race for Champions League qualification.

Emery’s side were comfortably on top in the first half and went in at the break with a commanding two-goal lead given to them by Watkins’ brace.

Luton struck back, seemingly re-energised by the looming prospect of a fourth straight league defeat, with goals from Tahith Chong and Carlton Morris, but Digne’s late intervention settled the contest in Villa’s favour.

However, it was the contribution of Watkins that was singled out by Emery.

“Fantastic, brilliant,” he said of his team’s top scorer, who now has 21 for the season.

“He’s an example for other players. Every day working hard, every day trying to learn more.

“His mentality, to increase his level, practising and practising on the training ground. His commitment to work in the tactical areas we are planning every match.

“He’s scoring, he’s getting chances, he’s assisting, defending set-pieces. He has been available to play 90 minutes more or less, keeping fit to play a lot. He’s fantastic.

“But he needs his team-mates as well to help him. We are a team. We have to try to get our performances through the team. With the commitment he’s showing, for everyone he is an example.

“For mentality, it’s difficult to find a player better than him. But his skill is also a high level.

“He wants to learn every day, to increase his level. Of course, his first objective is scoring goals, but then as well, tactically, his work has been fantastic. Understanding, being clever.”

Asked if Watkins was one of the best in Europe, Emery said: “Yes, of course, he’s showing. The Premier League is the toughest league maybe in the world.

“But as a person he’s humble. He avoids the ego changing him. He’s fantastic as a person and as a professional.”

Luton boss Edwards, whose team are four points adrift of safety with 12 games to play, reflected on a result he found difficult to take.

“Bitterly disappointed,” he said. “The goals were avoidable, all three of them, as they always are.

“There was so much to like about the performance. Villa are so organised and a good team and it is not easy to score goals against them. They can hit you hard with counter-attacks or control the game.

“They are a very good team, but I thought we dominated the second half and had an outstanding performance.”