Express & Star

Unai Emery proud of Aston Villa players after Anfield draw

Unai Emery expressed pride in Villa’s players after Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Liverpool put their challenge for Europe back into their own hands.


Villa will be guaranteed a top-seven finish if they beat Brighton at home next Sunday in their final match of the season.

It follows an incident-packed match at Anfield in which they were denied victory by Roberto Firmino’s 89th minute leveller.

Jacob Ramsey had earlier fired Villa in front after Ollie Watkins missed a penalty. Liverpool’s Cody Gakpo then saw an equaliser overturned by VAR.

The point moved Villa above Tottenham, who were beaten earlier in the day by Brentford, up to seventh in the table.

Emery, who arrived when Villa sat just above the relegation zone, said: “I’m very proud. We had a challenge I gave the players three months ago when we escaped from the bottom.

“I was telling them my objective was to progressively get top-10 position and then try to be competitive and try to arrive in the last match against Brighton, maybe playing for something.

“With 7 places available for Europe, we were thinking, if we were competitive away and at home like we were, to challenge it,

“The players really did it. We are now so motivated now.”

Other than Gakpo’s disallowed goal, Villa restricted Liverpool to few chances before Firmino’s leveller.

Asked if his team had deserved victory, Emery replied: “I don’t know. You can analyse the 90 mins in different ways and moments.

“The first half we played very well because to avoid the high pressing is not easy.

“We were holding out line really well and staying focused. We decided first half to go and win the match.

“The second half they pushed more, we lost our ball possession. We didn’t get good transition to create clear-cut chances.

“To get three points would have been fantastic but this draw, I knew could happen in one moment.”