English Premier League

Aston Villa 4 – 2 Nottingham Forest

Douglas Luiz scored twice as a scintillating attacking display earned Aston Villa all three points against Nottingham Forest at Villa Park.

Villa took the lead in the fourth minute with Ollie Watkins tapping in his 14th Premier League goal of the season after brilliant work down the right by Leon Bailey.

Luiz then scored twice in 10 minutes, first slotting home a Jacob Ramsey cut-back in the 29th minute, before heading in John McGinn’s right-wing cross.

Moussa Niakhate chested home his first Forest goal in first-half stoppage-time, before Morgan Gibbs-White dinked over the advancing Emi Martinez three minutes after the break.

Bailey secured the three points for the hosts, tapping into a vacant net after Watkins’ effort was saved following Forest losing the ball high up in their own half.

The result sees fourth-placed Villa open a five-point lead on Tottenham, who are not in action this weekend, and a eight-point gap to sixth-placed Manchester United, who lost 2-1 against Fulham at Old Trafford.

Forest remain 16th, four points clear of the relegation zone.

Villa get home form back on track

Villa’s charge into the Champions League places – and as possible title contenders a few weeks ago – has been based around an exemplary home record that saw them go 17 games unbeaten, winning 16.

Their slight drop-off in recent weeks has coincided with that run ending with successive defeats by Newcastle and Manchester United.

This win was earned in a rip-roaring opening half an hour where they consistently caused issues down their right wing.

The opener saw Bailey nip past Murillo, with his cross nutmegging Felipe and put on a plate for Watkins to tap home.

Both of Luiz’s came down the same side, with Ramsey showing brilliant composure to pick out the Brazil midfielder and McGinn’s cross pinpoint.

The three first-half goals mean Villa have now scored a league-high 27 in the opening period this season.

Unai Emery will be disappointed by both the goals they conceded, with Niakhete and Gibbs-White allowed unchallenged efforts on their goal.

However, with Europa Conference League football on the horizon again in a fortnight, he will be grateful for the gap his side are opening on their challengers.

Enforced change sees Forest exploited
Forest had picked up 10 points from the first eight games of Nuno Espirito Santo’s tenure but they were blown away by Villa here.

They were forced into one change from their win over West Ham last weekend with Nuno Tavares missing out through injury, and Villa duly exploited centre-back Niakhete playing at left-back.

He was often out of position, dragging centre-backs Murillo and Felipe, who were both booked in the first-half, wider.

Nuno was clearly furious with his side’s first-half display, opting to make a triple switch at the break, and his team were better in the second period, with the Bailey’s goal coming from efficient Villa pressing.

Forest have now scored 17 Premier League goals in Nuno’s time in charge – the same as in the first 17 games of the season under Steve Cooper – and that is a positive heading into the final stretch of the season.

However, their Premier League status may well depend on the outcome of the charge against the club for alleged breaches of profit and sustainability rules in their accounts for 2022-23.