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What Unai Emery had to say after Villa’s draw at Zrinjski

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Aston Villa boss Unai Emery was pleased that we were able to pick up a point against Zrinjski, and thus secure a direct path to the last 16 of the Europa Conference League.

 

Nicolo Zaniolo’s first goal for the club eventually broke the deadlock in the second half,
as Villa struggled to create clear-cut chances in the opening 45 minutes despite dominating possession.
It was a lovely touch and finish from the Italian international though in what will hopefully prove to be a key moment for him and
his form moving forward, with John McGinn making an instant impact off the bench to provide the assist.
Although Villa conceded late on, it was still enough to secure top spot in Group E,
and so we now skip the playoffs round and can focus our attention elsewhere until the round of 16 in March.
The draw takes place on February 23, with the two legs to be played on March 7 and 14,
and so that will hopefully be a pivotal bonus as we look to continue our impressive Premier League form over the next couple of months.
It wasn’t Villa at our best, as we lacked quality in advanced areas to prise open the Zrinjski defence and unlock a stubborn backline,
but Emery was pleased with certain aspects of what he saw and ultimately the outcome.
“We are happy because our objective was to be first in the group, with this draw we are,” he told VillaTV. “We tried to play with
some players who are not playing regularly in the season because of injuries like
Jacob Ramsey and Alex Moreno, and with Leander Dendoncker, Filip Marschall and Tommi O’Reilly as well.
“It’s important for them to get confidence and minutes. Tonight was perfect with
the draw and result and perfect to give some of the players chances.
“We wanted to win but our first objective is completely done: to be first in the group.
“We want to enjoy the way in this competition because for us to be in Europe it’s
important to remember how we achieved it last year and how we are now trying to win a trophy.
“We want to enjoy it with our supporters and some supporters were here with us today.
It’s important for them to be together and enjoy this way in Europe.”
While our focus will very much now switch to the Premier League in the coming weeks,
as well as the FA Cup which gets underway at the start of January, success in Europe will still be a main objective for both Emery and Villa.
Having recovered well from our opening defeat to Legia Warsaw to claim four wins and a draw to top the group shows progress,
development and maturity on a new stage for many, and it’s hoped that we can continue that when the knockout stage begins.
Further, Emery’s past experience in Europe will no doubt be key in those situations,
and he’s already shown his coaching class by rotating,
involving the whole squad where possible and ensuring that everyone is fit and ready to come in when needed.

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