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Aston Villa 4-0 Ajax: Watkins suffers injury scare in thumping win
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Jonathan Veal
Press Association
Ollie Watkins suffered a worrying injury for Aston Villa in the 4-0 win over Ajax
Ollie Watkins suffered a worrying injury for Aston Villa in the 4-0 win over Ajax

Ollie Watkins helped fire Aston Villa to a first European quarter-final since 1998 but gave his side and England an injury scare after limping off.

Watkins, named in Gareth Southgate’s latest squad earlier on Thursday, headed Villa in front in the first half of a 4-0 Europa Conference League second-leg win over 10-man Ajax which sends them through to the last eight.

But the striker limped off eight minutes later with a knee problem and had to watch his team-mates run riot in the second half with Leon Bailey, John Duran and Moussa Diaby goals killing off the tie after last week’s goalless draw in Amsterdam.

Villa and England will now wait anxiously to discover the extent of the problem, with the striker crucial to Villa’s Premier League top-four ambitions, while he was also likely to be involved in next week’s international friendlies against Brazil and Belgium.

Unai Emery’s men will also have serious designs on winning Europe’s third-tier competition, having reached a first continental quarter-final since the 1997/98 UEFA Cup when they lost to Atletico Madrid.

The level of opposition remaining in the competition is not of that calibre and they will be favourites to lift the silverware in Athens in May.

It was a painful return to English soil for Ajax captain Jordan Henderson, who was given a frequent reminder of his ill-fated move to Saudi Arabia by taunting home fans as his side were outclassed.

Just how successful Villa are between now and the end of the season may depend on the severity of the 15th-minute injury which Watkins suffered as he jarred his left knee when tackling Ajax goalkeeper Diant Ramaj.

He was able to carry on after lengthy treatment and initially appeared OK when he opened the scoring 10 minutes later.

The haphazard Ramaj had to produce a last-ditch tackle to deny Diaby after the keeper had fumbled a routine collection and from the resulting corner Watkins was left totally unmarked to head home Douglas Luiz’s corner.

Watkins’ night only lasted eight minutes longer as he succumbed to the pain and limped off in worrying scenes.

That halted Villa’s progress and Ajax fired a warning that they were still in the tie in first-half stoppage-time when Brian Brobbey saw a shot cleared off the line by Matt Cash.

But the second half was one-way traffic and the second goal came just before the hour as Sivert Mannsverk’s pass played his side into danger, with Bailey slotting home after twisting and turning.

Ajax’s plight deteriorated quickly when Mannsverk was then sent off for picking up two yellow cards and Villa enjoyed themselves against the 10 men.

Watkins’ replacement Duran got on the scoresheet in the 75th minute after another defensive howler allowed him to fire home from the edge of the area, with goal-line technology ruling in his favour after the ball cannoned off the underside of the crossbar.

Diaby then rounded things off with a crisp finish in the final 10 minutes as Villa went into the hat for Friday’s last-eight draw.


Europa Conference LeagueAjaxAston VillaOllie Watkins
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