We showed courage, says Villa boss Smith after vital win

LONDON (Reuters) - Aston Villa manager Dean Smith praised his side’s courage and heart after they moved out of the Premier League relegation zone with a 1-0 win over Arsenal on Tuesday.

Soccer Football - Premier League - Aston Villa v Arsenal - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - July 21, 2020 Aston Villa manager Dean Smith reacts during the match, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Pool via REUTERS/Shaun Botterill

Villa were given a boost when Watford were thrashed 4-0 by Manchester City earlier, but still needed to beat Arsenal to take advantage and move above Watford and out of the bottom three by virtue of goal difference.

Trezeguet’s first-half goal proved enough and Villa will go into the final game of the season away at West Ham United knowing victory will keep them up, as long as Watford do not win at Arsenal by a two-goal larger margin.

It will be a tortuous Sunday for Smith and his team but having been in the bottom three since February, they now have a golden chance to seal a second successive top-flight season.

“It was a great performance but an even better result. We knew we had to show a lot of courage, heart and workrate and we did that. I can’t remember our keeper making saves,” he said.

“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.

“Watford can go and win at Arsenal so we have to make sure we win at West Ham.”

Villa have struggled to hold on to leads this season, dropping 21 points from winning positions, while Arsenal had earned 18 points from losing positions.

So there was real tension in the air at Villa Park, although Villa defended with calm authority to limit Arsenal’s attack.

“We’ve been much better defensively over these eight games (since the restart),” Smith said. “We wanted to be better and the players were engaged with the video sessions we did.

“It was a real team performance today. We defended the box very well, I don’t remember Pepe Reina making a save.”

Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis