Nottingham Forest 2-0 Aston Villa. Nottingham Forest gained their first win in seven matches with a victory over in-form Aston Villa at the City Ground.
Ola Aina gave Forest a fifth-minute lead with his first goal for the club, powerfully side-footing into the net from 25 yards after Anthony Elanga’s burst down the left was followed by Harry Toffolo’s pass.
Villa would have gone third in the Premier League with the three points, but instead they lost in the league for the first time since 3 September when they were beaten 3-0 by Liverpool at Anfield.
At 1-0, Nicolo Zanolo had a chance to grab an equaliser for the visitors, but his shot was parried by Forest debutant goalkeeper Odysseas Vlachodimos who also saved from Ollie Watkins.
Forest doubled their lead just after the restart when Orel Mangala’s powerful 25-yard strike embarrassed Villa’s World Cup-winning goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.
Martinez, winner of the Yashin Trophy best goalkeeper prize at the Ballon d’Or awards last Monday, got a strong hand to the effort from Mangala, but the Argentine could not stop the ball crossing the line.
The victory takes Forest up from 16th to 12th in the Premier League table, while Villa stay fifth.
“It’s a win we really wanted,” said Forest boss Steve Cooper. “We knew it was going to be a really tough game.
“We had to be really clear on the plan. It’s pleasing for us to score two goals in the way we thought we could create chances.
“A real gratitude to the players in terms of committing to the plan and we scored early in both halves. I never felt we would concede today – Aston Villa couldn’t carve us open too many times.”
For Forest, this marked was a welcome return to form after they had drawn four times and lost twice since winning 1-0 at Chelsea on 2 September.
It was also vindication of a big decision by Cooper to change his goalkeeper.
American Matt Turner had played all of Forest’s 11 matches this season but had conceded five goals in his past two appearances, including an error in the 3-0 loss to Liverpool when he ran out of his penalty area, misjudged the bounce and gifted Mohamed Salah an easy goal.
Cooper handed a club debut to 29-year-old Greece international Vlachodimos, who signed from Benfica on transfer deadline day in September, and the goalkeeper did well to frustrate a Villa side who began the weekend as the joint highest scorers in the Premier League.
With Forest leading, Vlachodimos saved Zaniolo’s first-half effort and also a shot from Watkins within seconds of the second half starting.
Those interventions proved crucial as the hosts doubled their advantage less than a minute after the Watkins attempt through Mangala’s first goal since April.
Villa fail to convert possession into goals
For Villa, this was a rare off day as they suffered their first loss in seven matches in all competitions.
But there is no doubt the club are in a much stronger position than 12 months ago when Unai Emery replaced the sacked Steven Gerrard.
Emery’s first game in charge came on 6 November, 2022, and brought a 3-1 win over Manchester United. The former Arsenal boss transformed their season from what appeared to be a relegation battle before guiding them into seventh in the table and European qualification for the first time in 13 years.
This defeat was his 14th in 45 matches in all competitions and only the fifth time Villa had been beaten in 17 games in 2023-24.
Despite having far more of the ball, with 74% possession, Villa could not find a way through an organised backline, with Moussa Niakhate and Murillo defending excellently throughout for the home side.
England striker Watkins should have got his sixth Premier League goal of the campaign but failed to get a good connection on a header.
Leon Bailey fired wastefully over, Moussa Diaby has a shot saved and both Youri Tielemans and Lucas Digne missed the target on a frustrating day for Villa.
“We started the match very poor but we reacted well, we had chances and opportunities to score,” said Emery.
“The players fought until the last minute. Of course it is hard to lose, but we have to accept it.
“We made two mistakes early in each half and it is difficult to come back. We have to be stronger defensively away if we want to get to be one of the top seven teams in the Premier League.
“I learn when we are winning, I learn when we draw and I learn when we are losing.
“It is one year since I arrived here. We have progressed, done a lot of work and I am proud of the players, but I want more. To increase the level is the next challenge I have.”
Source – BBC