Matt Targett scores late winner for Aston Villa against 10-man Brighton | Football
Matt Targett hit the spot for Aston Villa just when it seemed their afternoon would end in frustration. The defender claimed victory for his team in stoppage time after Villa had spent more than 45 minutes struggling to find openings against 10 men, Aaron Mooy having been dismissed for Brighton in the first half. Until that red card Brighton had been dominant, with Adam Webster heading them in front. Jack Grealish equalised after Mooy’s departure and, despite being fended off ably by Brighton for most of the remainder of the game, Dean Smith’s team never stopped seeking victory. Targett secured it in the dying seconds.
An experimental Villa won 3-1 at the Amex in the Carabao Cup less than a month ago but the Brighton team that turned up here was nothing like the one they faced that day, with Aaron Connolly the only player to start both matches. Nor is this Brighton side anything like the one that trudged to Premier League survival under Chris Hughton last season; they have been transformed since then by Graham Potter, who came into this game promising that his team could perform even better than they did when thrashing Tottenham Hotspur two weeks ago. His team were intent on proving him right.
For the first half hour Brighton attacked with such fluency that Villa were left stammering like dunces at a Mensa meeting. Less than a minute had elapsed when Neal Maupay fired off the visitors first shot, which whizzed just wide.
Brighton’s goalkeeper was less deft than his outfield teammates when he spilled an innocuous cross in the fifth minute. He was grateful to Martin Montoya for tidying up. Soon Brighton were back on the front foot. Dan Burn loped down the flank before delivering a dangerous low cross that Tyrone Mings did not clear properly, instead sending it into the path of Connolly. The teenager curled the ball wide from 12 yards.
Although it was not entirely one-way traffic, Brighton’s superiority made one wonder how they had not scored in their previous three road trips. They soon put that right here, although, given their impressive movement, it felt wrong that their breakthrough came from a set piece. Pascal Gross curled over a free-kick from the left with a precision that Villa’s markers lacked, and Webster was free to guide a downward header into the far corner.
Maupay shared a hug before kick-off with Smith, who signed him for Brentford before each man went to their present clubs, but on the pitch no one could get tight to the French striker as he flitted between midfield and attack. In the 32nd minute he brought a save from Tom Heaton after being allowed to spin and shoot 25 yards from goal; then he popped up in the same place to thread a pass through to Connolly. Heaton charged off his line to stop the forward from making it 2-0.
It took uncharacteristic clumsiness from Mooy to turn things in Villa’s favour. The midfielder was already on a yellow card when he committed himself unwisely to a tackle on Jack Grealish, knee-sliding into his opponent’s ankle in the 32nd minute. Off he was ordered. Fresh optimism swept through Villa Park. The home team quaffed it like an elixir.
A mighty roar went up in the 42nd minute when Conor Hourihane ran on to a pull-back by John McGinn and rammed the ball into the net from 16 yards. But the goal was wiped off following a review by VAR, Wesley having been judged to have fouled the goalkeeper in the buildup. Following previously disallowed goals against Burnley and Crystal Palace, this was the third time this season that Villa celebrations have been curtailed by a VAR decision.
Home fans were still cursing the latest ruling when Grealish struck a legitimate equaliser. Struck is a generous word, as the midfielder did not meet Frédéric Guilbert’s low cross cleanly. No matter, he was in the right place at the time to bundle the ball into the net from close range, finishing a move he had started.
Being cut to 10 men and pegged back on the scoreboard barely dulled Brighton’s ambition. They continued to attack when they could in the second half and defended defiantly – until the last moments, when Targett ghosted into the box, received a pass from Grealish and blasted the ball into the net.