Villa snatch a lifeline after Watford crash
Smith’s side hold off Arsenal to send relegation fight to wire Vicarage Road club slip into drop zone after rout by City
Aston Villa head coach Dean Smith hailed his side’s “courage and heart” after they seized the initiative in the Premier League’s relegation battle with a spirited victory over Arsenal at Villa Park.
A first-half strike by Egyptian winger Trezeguet secured three points and Villa overtook Watford to move out of the relegation zone for the first time since February.
The win meant Villa capitalised on Watford’s earlier thrashing at home by Manchester City and ensured the relegation dogfight goes to the final day of the campaign.
Villa’s fate is now in their own hands as they prepare to meet West Ham United on Sunday, while Watford face a tricky trip to the Emirates to face Arsenal. The sides are level on 34 points. Bournemouth, who travel to Everton, are three points behind.
The momentum appears to be with Villa ahead of a dramatic last round of fixtures. Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster said his team’s confidence was “crazy, crazy low” after their 4-0 defeat by a Raheem Sterling-inspired City.
“It was a great performance but an even better result,” said Smith. “We knew we had to show a lot of courage, heart and workrate and we did that. We needed this. We have got to go and do the same against West Ham on Sunday.
“It’s a big boost, that’s for sure. We knew we had to win to catch Watford up. Now we’ve got the season in our own hands and that’s all you can ask for.”
Jack Grealish, the Villa captain, admitted it had been a nerve-racking few hours for the club. “It [the victory] feels unbelievable,” said Grealish. “It has been a tense day but all we can do is focus on ourselves. It’s in our hands now and it’s up to us what we do on the last day.”
Watford’s defeat by City also robbed them of their advantage on