Aston Villa 2-1 Legia Warsaw: Diaby and Moreno inspire hard-fought win

Aston Villa 2-1 Legia Warsaw: Unai Emery’s side secure place in UEFA Conference League knockouts after goals from Moussa Diaby and Alex Moreno… with the win overshadowed by trouble from visiting fans

  • Aston Villa secured a hard-fought win over Legia Warsaw on Thursday evening 
  • Moussa Diaby and Alex Moreno netted after Ernest Muci’s superb equaliser   

Aston Villa secured their place in the knockout stages of the Europa Conference League on a night tarnished by violent behaviour from Legia Warsaw fans outside Villa Park as three police officers were injured outside the ground.

Villa’s 2-1 win was overshadowed by ugly scenes before kick-off as missiles were thrown at officers by the travelling supporters, with over 1,000 estimated ticketless fans making the trip to Birmingham.

Subsequently, none of the travelling support were allowed inside the away end for the match with chaos unfolding outside and several fans arrested as the game began.

An official statement from Villa said: ‘Approximately an hour before kick-off, Legia fans engaged in planned and systematic violent acts against West Midlands Police officers and a decision was then made by West Midlands Police to exclude all Legia supporters.’

Legia were unhappy with their reduced allocation after Villa reduced the amount of away tickets to just 1,002 earlier this month, based on advice from safety authorities as a result of previous large-scale disorder caused by Legia fans last month at AZ Alkmaar when a number of Dutch police officers were injured.

Aston Villa secured a hard-fought 2-1 win over Legia Warsaw to seal place in Conference League knockout stages

The Polish club’s fans were then banned from their next European away fixture at Zrinjski Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

UEFA competition rules allow the visiting team five per cent of the stadium’s capacity, which would equal to 2,100 tickets at Villa Park.

In an official statement from Legia, the Polish side accused Villa of refusing to allocate tickets to away fans in accordance with UEFA regulations. Legia claimed that they ‘made a formal request for this allocation’ but were ‘met with an unwelcome rejection’ before a proposal of 1,700 tickets – mirroring the number allocated to Villa fans for the game in Warsaw in September. That proposal was accepted in September before Villa informed Legia on November 2 that the allocation would be slashed.

The statement said: ‘Instead of diffusing potential pre-match tensions, restrictive measures of Aston Villa F.C. as the host club needlessly exacerbate the atmosphere. In our view, such measures are counterproductive and unfounded.’

Legia CEO Marcin Herra added: ‘From the beginning, Legia Warsaw aimed to have the number of our club’s fans in the stands in Birmingham as prescribed by UEFA regulation, and as it was the case with Aston Villa fans in Warsaw. 

The behavior of the home team’s representatives before today’s match led to an unnecessary escalation of negative emotions. Unfortunately, VIP guests and Legia Warsaw sponsors also suffered, as they have been hindered from obtaining tickets and consequently prevented from entering the stadium. This is incompatible with all standards for UEFA matches.’

Legia fans have history in England, with three men sentenced in 2021 after 14 officers were attacked and injured during a Europa League game between Leicester and Legia.

The Villa statement added: ‘In spite of numerous requests for cooperation from Legia Warsaw concerning their travelling supporters, especially in the last two days, no assistance on the serious safety matter of away fans attending Villa Park was forthcoming from the visiting club. 

The club has repeatedly raised concerns in conjunction with UEFA and all the relevant authorities to Legia that ticketless away supporters were attempting to attend Villa Park’

Villa had already qualified for the knockout stage after AZ Alkmaar beat Zrinjski Mojstar in the earlier game and Unai Emery’s side went into the contest knowing that a two-goal win would secure their place in the last 16, by virtue of winning the group.

The team who finish second in the group would have to play two extra games in February in the play-off round to qualify for the last 16.

Unai Emery made six changes from the side that beat Tottenham on Sunday and it took just four minutes for them to take the lead with the first attack of the game.

Youri Tielemans put Moussa Diaby through and the Frenchman cut in before curling a left-footed strike into the bottom corner.

On the 20th minute mark, Legia equalised thanks to a wonderful finish from Ernest Muci after Boubacar Kamara carelessly gave the ball away in his own half.

Villa restored their lead on the hour mark when Douglas Luiz’s free-kick from deep picked out Alex Moreno, who finished well.

More to follow. 

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