Match: Aston Villa v Wigan Athletic
Date: Saturday 11th August 2018
Competition: Sky Bet Championship
Venue: Villa Park
Chester (13), Dunkley og (63), Bjarnason (90)
Powell (41), Connolly (55)
Nyland; Tuanzebe (Adomah 64), Chester, Jedinak, Hutton; Elmohamady, Bjarnason, McGinn, Green (Hepburn-Murphy 74); Grealish; Kodjia (Hourihane 87). Unused subs: Moreira, Taylor, Whelan, Elphick.
Story in brief
Birkir Bjarnason’s goal in the third minute of stoppage time gave Villa a dramatic victory over workmanlike Wigan in a thrilling contest.
Skipper James Chester provided the perfect start, climbing in front of keeper Christian Walton to head home a well-measured free-kick from debut boy John McGinn.
The visitors were level just before half-time when Mile Jedinak’s misplaced back pass forced new keeper Orjan Nyland into an attempted clearance which rebounded off Nick Powell and into the net.
Callum Connolly headed the Latics in front 10 minutes after half-time, but Villa were back in the game when McGinn’s inswinging corner created confusion in the visitors’ defence and Cedric Kipre’s attempted clearance went in off Chey Dunkley at the far post.
And just when we were ready to settle for a point, Bjarnason slid in to convert sub Conor Hourihane’s low cross at point-blank range.
Back on home soil
It was great to be back in action at Villa Park for the first time since Middlesbrough’s visit for the Play-Off semi-final three months ago.
With the camber removed from the playing surface, the new pitch was flat – but the opening home game certainly wasn’t.
A five-goal thriller provided great entertainment for a buoyant crowd, and both sides might have scored a couple more.
And who could have predicted such a dramatic finale?
Best start for 19 years
This result, combined with the 3-1 success at Hull City, means Villa have started the season with back-to-back league wins for the first time since 1999.
John Gregory’s side kicked off that campaign with a 1-0 success at Newcastle, followed by a 3-0 home victory over Everton, before drawing 2-2 at home to West Ham.
It’s over half a century since the last time Villa kicked off with three consecutive league wins – at the start of the 1962/63 campaign was in.
John McGinn promised to inject energy into Villa’s midfield and the new boy was as good as his word.
With another former Hibs and Villa man Des Bremner watching from the stand, the Scotland international midfielder enjoyed an outstanding debut.
Apart from his ball-winning and distribution qualities, he linked well with the lively Jack Grealish and forced Wigan keeper Christian Walton into an excellent save from his blistering low drive.
Oh, yes – he was also involved in two of Villa goals.
Villa head to Somerset on Tuesday to face Yeovil in a first round Carabao Cup tie.
It’s the third year running that the boys in claret and blue have been required to make an early start to the League Cup competition, having suffered a shock defeat at Luton in 2016 and beaten Colchester United 12 months ago.
The game at Huish Park kicks off at 7.45pm.
"We've got there in the end, but it was hard work.
"I said all week that Wigan are a good team, especially to the players.
"But we got there and twice in as many games now we've managed to show a bit of spirit to come from behind and win. I'm delighted.
"We're under no illusions, we're nowhere near where we need to be performance wise yet. We understand that.
"But what we can do is show a bit of spirit by going away from home and scoring three goals, and again today – one in the last minute.
"It's a good job all round."