Martinez’s Penalty Heroics Sees Aston Villa Begin League On Winning Note
Aston Villa kicked off their Premier League campaign with a 1-0 victory over 10-man Sheffield United on Monday as Ezri Konsa bagged the winner after Emiliano Martinez saved a penalty for the hosts.
United were a man down early on after captain John Egan was sent off for a foul on Ollie Watkins.
Villa keeper Martinez saved John Lundstram’s first-half penalty in his first appearance following his £17 million ($21 million) move from Arsenal last week.
Konsa sealed the points in the second half with a looping header, a well-earned reward for a committed display after he played on despite appearing to injure himself sprinting out for the second half.
It was the perfect start for Dean Smith’s side, who beat Burton Albion in the League Cup second round last week, as they look to avoid a repeat of last season’s relegation battle.
After losing at home to Wolves last weekend, United have now lost their last five league games dating back to last season.
Former Nottingham Forest right-back Matty Cash was given his Villa debut after his close-season transfer and his deep cross provided an early half-chance for John McGinn, who volleyed over from an acute angle.
Watkins, another of Villa’s new boys, played a key role as United were reduced to 10 men in the 12th minute.
Tyrone Mings’ high long ball sent Watkins racing through on goal and Egan responded by tugging him back, with referee Graham Scott showing the defender a red card that was confirmed by VAR.
Wilder introduced on-loan Chelsea defender Ethan Ampadu and moved Chris Basham into midfield and the switch earned United their penalty in the 36th minute.
Basham’s clever run onto Oliver Burke’s pass forced Matt Targett to concede the spot-kick, but Martinez came to his rescue as he dived to his right to keep out Lundstram’s strike.
Villa found it hard to make the numerical advantage count and their frustration was mounting when Watkins missed the target from Cash’s cross.
But Konsa finally broke the deadlock from a 63rd-minute corner when the defender met Mings’ flick-on with a header that floated past Aaron Ramsdale into the far corner.
Seven of Villa’s last nine league goals have now come from set-pieces.
Jack Grealish was close to putting the result beyond doubt when he curled just wide from the edge of the area.