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Aston Villa avoid top-four disaster with late win over Luton Town

From having total and complete control at 2-0, to level and teetering on the edge at 2-2, to snatching the late winner and all three points, Aston Villa made things quite interesting in their 3-2 victory over Luton Town on Saturday.

[ MORE: Upcoming Premier League schedule | Live PL table ]

The victory puts Unai Emery’s side (55 points) in a commanding place in the Premier League’s top-four race, still five points above 5th-place Tottenham, who have a game in hand. To make matters that much more interesting, it’ll be Aston Villa vs Tottenham in a massive six-pointer next weekend. The unlikely point would have seen Luton Town (20 points) move to within three of safety, but instead they remain four back of 17th-place Nottingham Forest.

Ollie Watkins, Premier League Player of the Season?

Goals + assists this season

Ollie Watkins - 26 (44 percent of his team’s goals)
Mohamed Salah - 24 (36 percent)
Erling Haaland - 22 (37 percent)

No player in the PL has more assists than Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins (10), and only Erling Haaland (17) has more goals than Watkins (16). He has been ever-present for Villa (27 starts in 27 games) and, with Liverpool and Manchester City full of world-class talent all over the field, has undoubtedly made the biggest individual impact of any player in the league this season. Unless one of the aforementioned aliens superstars puts up absurd numbers in the final three months of the season, Ollie Watkins is in line to win a fair few awards this spring.

Aston Villa jumped out to a strong start and eventually a lead midway through the first half, as the first nine shots of the game were all theirs. It was the fifth of those that resulted in the opening goal in the 24th minute, as Ollie Watkins rose at the near post and glanced Leon Bailey’s corner kick inside the near post.

Goal no. 2 was made to look even easier, when Douglas Luiz unlocked the entire Luton defense with one through ball in behind. Initially, Watkins was ruled offside (after allowing the chance to play out), but video review showed him to be well onside. Watkins strolled into the penalty area and slotted a right-footed finish around Thomas Kaminski.

Things looked more than comfortable for Aston Villa at 2-0 ahead in the 65th minute, but those never-say-die Hatters had one or two surprises up their sleeves. A corner kick turned into a chaotic six-yard-box scramble in the 66th minute, and Tahith Chong slammed home to make it 2-1 and whip Kenilworth Road into a frenzy that would continue to carry the home side.

Six minutes later, Luton were level and for the second time on the day, it was a set piece that did it. Alfie Doughty whipped a tantalizing free kick to the back post as Aston Villa pushed their defensive line as high as they could. Carlton Morris made the run from deep to keep himself onside and create a yard of space. Morris made no mistake as he put his right foot through the ball and set up a frantic finish for both sides.

Luton had a nearly carbon-copy chance of the second goal in the 85th minute, as Doughty once again served a free kick from the left wing to the back post, only this time Morris put the chance just wide of the far post (and had strayed offside as well). By the 89th minute, it was Luton who had thrown caution to the wind and looked likelier to find a winner.

Alas, the final minute of regular time wrought a much more cruel plot twist instead. Aston Villa broke down the right flank through Moussa Diaby, who lofted a dangerous cross to the far post and Lucas Digne found a small window between Kaminski and his right-hand post to place his header.

What’s next?

Next weekend will be massive clash in the top-four race, as 4th-place Aston Villa host 5th-place Tottenham on a massive Sunday (9 am ET) of Premier League action, ahead of Liverpool vs Manchester City (11:45 am ET). Luton will visit Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Saturday (10 am ET).

Player ratings - Luton Town vs Aston Villa

Luton Town vs Aston Villa, final score: 2-3

Goalscorers: Ollie Watkins (24', 38'), Tahith Chong (66'), Carlton Morris (72'), Lucas Digne (89')

24th minute - GOAL - Ollie Watkins flicks a near-post header home to put Aston Villa ahead

Watkins heads Aston Villa in front of Luton Town
Ollie Watkins scores his 15th goal of the season with a strong header into the back of the net to give Aston Villa a 1-0 lead over Luton Town at Kenilworth Road.

38th minute - GOAL - Ollie Watkins gets in behind and makes it 2-0

Watkins doubles Aston Villa's lead v. Luton Town
Ollie Watkins doubles his tally against Luton Town with a tidy finish to give Aston Villa a comfortable two-goal lead over the Hatters at Kenilworth Road.

66th minute - GOAL - Tahith Chong cleans up a chaotic mess in front of goal

Chong gives Luton Town hope against Aston Villa
Luton Town's pressure pays off as Tahith Chong gets the Hatters on the board against Aston Villa at Kenilworth Road.

72nd minute - GOAL - Carlton Morris gets on the end of Alfie Dought’s free kick for 2-2

Morris heads Luton Town level against Aston Villa
Carlton Morris sends the Hatters faithful into a frenzy as he heads Luton Town level at 2-2 against Aston Villa in the second half at Kenilworth Road.

89th minute - GOAL - Moussa Diaby crosses for Lucas Digne to make it 3-2

Digne lifts Aston Villa 3-2 in front of Luton Town
Lucas Digne's 89th-minute header puts Aston Villa back in the driving seat against Luton Town, leading 3-2 entering stoppage time at Kenilworth Road.


How to watch Luton Town vs Aston Villa live, stream link and start time

Kickoff: 12:30pm ET Saturday
Odds: Luton (+310) vs Villa (-130) | Draw (+310)
TV Channel: USA Network
Stream: Online via NBC.com


Luton Town starting lineup

Kaminski — Burke, Mengi, Bell — Kabore, Clark, Barkley, Doughty — Townsend, Chong, Morris

Aston Villa starting lineup

Martinez — Cash, Konsa, Lenglet, Moreno — Bailey, McGinn, Luiz, Ramsey — Tielemans, Watkins

Luton Town focus, team news

OUT: Elijah Adebayo (thigh), Jacob Brown (knee), Tom Lockyer (heart), Marvelous Nakamba (knee), Mads Andersen (calf) | QUESTIONABLE: Gabriel Osho (undisclosed), Amari’i Bell (knock), Dan Potts (undisclosed)

Aston Villa focus, team news

OUT: Boubacar Kamara (torn ACL - out for season), Diego Carlos (hamstring), Emiliano Buendia (torn ACL - out for season), Tyrone Mings (torn ACL - out for season), Jhon Duran (undisclosed), Ezri Konsa (knee) | QUESTIONABLE: Pau Torres (leg)