Aston Villa confirmed their place in the UEFA Europa Conference League group stage with a comfortable 3-0 win over Hibernian on Thursday night, bringing the aggregate score to 8-0 after a comprehensive victory in Edinburgh last week. Jhon Duran netted the opener on his first start in claret and blue, while Leon Bailey and Matty Cash scored yet again to ensure a heavily rotated Unai Emery side made it into the hat. Villa will find out their next European opponents midway through deadline day, at 1.30pm on Friday, September 1.
Hibernian probably started as the better side on the night but Villa were the team to break the deadlock as Jhon Duran sprinted to take a brilliantly executed Pau Torres through ball into his stride. Hibs goalkeeper David Marshall rushed out to try and claim but Duran, who had beat centre-backs Paul Hanlon and Rocky Bushiri for pace, was able to find a gap and slot the ball into the bottom right-hand corner for his first European goal. It was a truly delightful delivery from Pau as he used an onrushing midfielder for guidance and curled the ball forward nearly 30 yards; an indication perhaps of what he could soon do on a regular basis.
The away side reacted well to the goal as they earned a few set pieces and whipped some dangerous deliveries into the penalty area. Jordan Obita came very close to netting an equaliser in the 17th minute as the winger found space and struck an audacious effort from range, but Villa ‘keeper Robin Olsen dived across effectively to direct it behind for a corner. Hibs fans even managed to squeeze in a few ‘ole’ chants as their team enjoyed a spell of slightly more sustained possession before the half-hour mark.
But it was Villa who got the second goal of the encounter as Omari Kellyman found space on the edge of the area and fed in Bailey on the right flank. The Jamaican cut inside and fooled a sliding Obita, passing the ball low and under Marshall to find the net for 2-0. It all started with Pau once again as the defender struck an inch-perfect ball to find Kellyman between a line of Hibernian midfielders. Kellyman’s composure to dribble forward and find the right pass was pleasing to see too, especially given the pressure he was under on debut.
Former Hibs star and current Villa captain John McGinn was brought on for the second half and he was welcomed to the field to a chorus of cheers from both sets of supporters. The Scotsman even received a few sarcastic jeers from the away end when he got his first touches on the ball, just as he did at Easter Road. Spurred on perhaps by the uplift in the atmosphere, Hibs burst forward on the counter a few times and Élie Youan was able to put another of Villa’s substitutes, Cash, on the ground with a superb piece of skill. The forward’s result shot lacked conviction, however, and Olsen made an easy stop.
Duran stung the gloves of Marshall in the 56th minute as he let fly from around 30 yards on his left foot. The Colombian certainly wasn’t letting off despite his team’s considerable lead and was pressuring Hibs defenders to win back possession at every given opportunity. Then, a few minutes later from a similar position, Bailey was able to cause the away goalkeeper all sorts of issues with a free-kick. The winger struck a curling and dipping effort and it was too much for Marshall to handle. Cash, sprinting in at the near post, was quickest to react as the Poland international hit first-time to hand the Villans a 3-0 lead.
The closing stages – for both teams – were all about having a bit of fun while not exerting too much energy. It was clear to see Emery had not just one eye but nearly both on Sunday’s clash against Liverpool, with substitutions made to protect key players. Olsen had a slight concern in the final 10 minutes or so as he went down holding his jaw after an aerial duel but – much to the relief of his manager – he was fine to carry on after some lengthy treatment. Sung home by a loud and proud Hibernian support raising their scarves, the match ended 3-0 and 8-0 on aggregate. Here are our Villa player ratings.