BRIGHTON, England (Reuters) – Aston Villa defender Matty Cash scored his second goal for the club before forward Ollie Watkins struck in the second half to secure a 2-0 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion in a tetchy Premier League encounter on Saturday.
Villa’s arrival at Brighton’s Amex Stadium was delayed due to traffic problems and they clicked into gear after a sluggish start when Cash controlled a pass from the left and fired a low shot past Robert Sanchez in the 17th minute.
Cash was booked for removing his shirt to unveil the words “stay strong my bro” for Poland team mate Tomasz Kedziora, who plays for Dynamo Kiev and is still stuck in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion of the country this week.
Watkins ensured a league double for Villa over Brighton in the 68th minute with a cool finish, after the south coast side’s defence was caught off guard by a superb long pass from skipper Tyrone Mings.
Manager Steven Gerrard will hope Villa’s second victory in eight league matches which lifted them to 12th place will spark an upturn in their fortunes, while mid-table Brighton were left to rue their third straight defeat.
“We’ve been on the back of some sticky form of late but credit to the players they stuck at. We came out of the blocks in good form today and put in a really strong performance,’ Gerrard told the BBC.
“In the main we owned the pitch out of possession today and all our good stuff came from that. We looked the most dangerous team throughout.
“The focus and concentration from the boys out of possession was superb.”
Brighton manager Graham Potter said he was frustrated by the scoreline but satisfied with his team’s showing on the day.
“We started well and their goal came out of nothing from our perspective,” Potter said.
“That made it difficult against a well-organised side with quality players at the top end of the pitch.”
Tempers flared in a feisty opening half and Mings was among several players shown yellow cards, with the England defender punished for berating Marc Cucurella who was writhing in pain following a clash with Watkins.
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Pritha Sarkar)