BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom, Sep 21 – 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.
“A very good start, to get three points and a clean sheet you can’t ask for more. I thought we started the game the better and the game changes with the sending off,” Smith said.
“We probably should have scored more and since lockdown, defensively I think we’ve been more aggressive. It was a great start for Emi Martinez.”
After losing at home to Wolves last weekend, United have now lost their last five league games dating back to last season.
“I wanted to clear up (with the referee) the decisions he made. Why wasn’t there a look at the monitor?” United manager Chris Wilder said of Egan’s dismissal.
“Both boys are grappling there. The linesman never once raises his flag for a foul. I don’t see many Villa players running to the referee.
“It’s Premier League football and you wonder what’s going off.”
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.
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.