By Matt Law, at Villa Park
Captain John McGinn did not need many words to get a huge roar from the celebrating Aston Villa fans as he took the microphone on the pitch after this victory and simply said: “Get your passports, see you in Europe.”
Villa will play European football for the first time in 13 years and just four years since McGinn was part of the team that clinched promotion to the Premier League through the Championship play-offs.
It might be the Europa Conference League, the third tier of European football, but the Villa fans who have been starved of continental trips for over a decade do not care.
And they have head coach Unai Emery to thank for an astonishing turnaround that saw Villa transform from relegation candidates under Steven Gerrard to challenging for Europe.
Emery, so underappreciated in English football at Arsenal, was treated like a rock star when he re-entered the Villa Park pitch after the final whistle had gone and the Spaniard promised supporters that this was just the first step.
Asked how he would celebrate, Emery said: “With a glass of champagne, this is a champagne moment.”
A champagne moment indeed for Villa, for whom McGinn has been with for every step of their journey from the Championship to the Premier League, through the successful battle against relegation a few years ago and all the way into Europe.
By the end of this seventh successive home victory, which equalled a club record and clinched seventh place in the Premier League table ahead of Tottenham Hotspur, McGinn could barely run, such was the effort he and his team-mates put in.
McGinn was one of Villa’s best performers on a day when homegrown star Jacob Ramsey shone by assisting both of the home team’s goals scored by the club’s player of the season Douglas Luiz and top scorer Ollie Watkins.
“We have worked hard and now it’s important to celebrate,” said Emery. “Europe was not the first objective when I joined, but it’s amazing to be here and to share the moment with the fans and the players.
“Now we have another trophy to play for and I think the fans will enjoy seeing the team play in Europe and in different countries.”
Asked if he has proved a point in terms of his own ability to Premier League fans after being sacked by Arsenal, Emery added: “I have been a coach in Spain, Russia, Paris and at Arsenal, and it’s the same, you have to win. I never felt disrespect from the people here [in England].”
Deniz Undav scored for Brighton for whom defeat did not matter as Europa League qualification had already been sealed. But, as Villa celebrated at the final whistle, Alexis Mac Allister, who is expected to move to Liverpool, was in tears and had to be consoled by team-mates and Brighton manager Roberto De Zerbi.
“That can be the last game of Alexis and Moises Caicedo,” said De Zerbi. “I am really sorry because they are two great people and two great players, but the policy of Brighton is like this and we have to accept it.
“I think it’s right they can change team and play at a higher level because I think they can play in the big, big European teams. We are ready and we have to find other big players to play without Alexis and Moises.”
The final table
Unai Emery speaks with BBC Sport
These players have really followed me for the last six months, it has been demanding and we are committed.
We finished perfectly in the last six matches at home, we beat a very good team and to achieve the European place is the best possible end. We will be in Europe which for me is very important. It has given me a lot, it is fantastic, another way and another trophy at the end.
Europe adds more matches and more difficult moments but I like that. It is very important for us.
The view inside the tunnel
Scenes at Villa Park
Premier League top goalscorers
H. Kane (Tottenham) 30
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) 19
C. Wilson (Newcastle) 18
Gabriel Martinelli (Arsenal) 15
M. Ødegaard (Arsenal)
O. Watkins (Aston Villa)
1,073 - Abdoulaye Doucouré has scored the 1,073rd goal of the 2022-23 Premier League - the most ever scored in a single 20-team season in the competition, surpassing 2018-19's 1,072. Gluttony. pic.twitter.com/F8ZjAkMUVF
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 28, 2023
Unai Emery's Villa turnaround
When Unai Emery took over from Steven Gerrard in October, Villa were 17th in the league with two wins out of 11.
Since then, Villa have recorded 15 league wins, and the former Arsenal, PSG and Sevilla manager has taken the club into Europe for the first time since 2010.
Full-time results across the league
Arsenal 5 Wolves 0
Aston Villa 2 Brighton 1
Brentford 1 Man City 0
Chelsea 1 Newcastle 1
Crystal Palace 1 Nottm Forest 1
Leeds 1 Tottenham 4
Leicester 2 West Ham 1
Man Utd 2 Fulham 1
Southampton 4 Liverpool 4
Everton have survived!
They've won 1-0 against Bournemouth.
Leicester are down, despite a 2-1 victory over West Ham.
Leeds have been relegated
They lost 4-1 to Spurs at Elland Road.
Full time: Aston Villa 2 Brighton 1
Aston Villa have taken 7th place. They will be playing Thursday night Europa Conference League football next season. Unai Emery has done quite the job to take them out of the relegation places and into Europe.
90+5 mins: Aston Villa 2 Brighton 1
Buendia with a scooped ball to Ramsey, a bouncing ball which is hit with conviction but well kept out by Steele.
90+4 mins: Aston Villa 2 Brighton 1
The flag's gone up against Mitoma down the left flank. Villa will be in no rush to take it. Two more minutes for Villa to hold on.
Final Brighton sub
— Brighton & Hove Albion (@OfficialBHAFC) May 28, 2023
Emery and De Zerbi
90 mins: Aston Villa 2 Brighton 1
SIX minutes of added time to come.
88 mins: Aston Villa 2 Brighton 1
Digne takes... left-footed and aiming to curl into that top-right corner. It's not far off at all, half a yard wide of the post.
GOAL! Brentford 1 Man City 0 (Pinnock, 85)
They're keeping the pressure on Spurs and Villa.
Currently: Villa on 61 points, Tottenham on 60, and Brentford on 59.
84 mins: Aston Villa 2 Brighton 1
Ramsey sends the ball across the face of the six-yard box from the left, Watkins is almost there, but he can't get his in-step on it. Any contact on it, that would've been game over.
As it stands
Everton are surviving, Leicester and Leeds are going down.
Aston Villa are securing the final European place.
82 mins: Aston Villa 2 Brighton 1
Douglas Luiz has a go... but that's catching practice for the Holte End.
80 mins: Aston Villa 2 Brighton 1
Free kick huddle. Buendia and Douglas Luiz both want it.
Buendia goes for raw power, hitting the wall.
78 mins: Aston Villa 2 Brighton 1
Villa free kick edge of the area now, Mings pulled back by Gross as Douglas Luiz's ball is played in.
77 mins: Aston Villa 2 Brighton 1
Van Hecke penalised for a push on Watkins on the edge of Brighton's third. Villa can take their time here and run down the clock.
73 mins: Aston Villa 2 Brighton 1
Douglas Luiz free kick here. 35 yards out, central.
It's a clever one. Played to Digne round the back, the inside-left channel, who sprints forward ahead of the defensive line crossing the ball in and picking out Watkins whose header is strong, but Steele has plenty of time to see it.
GOAL! Leeds 1 Tottenham 3 (Kane, 69)
Spurs aren't having it. Harry Kane has restored Tottenham's two-goal lead at Leeds.
Harry Kane isn't missing that! 🔥
Moments after Jack Harrison pulled one back for Leeds Tottenham regain their two-goal advantage ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/GZiQZf0Lek
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) May 28, 2023
GOAL! Leeds 1 Tottenham 2 (Harrison, 67)
Leeds' survival chances are still slim, but they've got one back via Jack Harrison. If they get another, it takes the pressure off Villa's need for a win to ensure European qualification.
Buendia comes on for Bailey.
68 mins: Aston Villa 2 Brighton 1
Mitoma, on the edge of the Villa box, lots of Villa shirts around him. It looks like he's pushed over by Luiz, but the ref doesn't think there's anything in it.
As it stands
Leeds and Leicester are going down; Everton are surviving.
Double sub for Brighton
Off: Enciso, Webster.
On: Mitoma, Jan Paul van Hecke.
64 mins: Aston Villa 2 Brighton 1
Undav picks the ball up on the edge of the final third, takes a few steps forward and sends a shot in... well off target.
62 mins: Aston Villa 2 Brighton 1
Ramsey plays Digne down the left, the Villa left-back directing his ball into the box but Caicedo puts in a delightful diving headed clearance to ensure that Ramsey does not receiver the ball back.
60 mins: Aston Villa 2 Brighton 1
Enciso takes the ball past Cash on the left and delivers a dangerous one across the face of the six-yard box... but no-one is there to latch on to it! Digne puts it out for a Brighton corner.
55 mins: Aston Villa 2 Brighton 1
Ramsey misses a sitter!
The ball is fired across the face of goal from the right, Steele is out the game, Ramsey is there but misses from two yards!
54 mins: Aston Villa 2 Brighton 1
Brighton break forward, Enciso finds Estupinan down the left who hooks the ball in. Ferguson is on the end of it and it sits up to Mac Allister who drags his shot just wide of Martinez's left-hand post.
52 mins: Aston Villa 2 Brighton 1
Villa corner, only their second attack of the half.
Luiz whips it in and tries to catch Steele out on the front post – and he's almost successful. The Brighton man only just punches it away.
50 mins: Aston Villa 2 Brighton 1
Villa need to get going because Brighton mean business here. There's a nervy feel around Villa Park.
GOAL! Leeds 0 Tottenham 2 (Porro, 47)
Leeds slip further from safety, Porro the man putting another nail in their coffin.
Pedro Porro rifles the ball into the far corner !💥
Harry Kane is bullying Leeds this afternoon.
Just look at his work in the build-up to this goal 🤤 pic.twitter.com/en5fkV2nyj
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) May 28, 2023
46 mins: Aston Villa 2 Brighton 1
Ramsey is quick off the mark and delivers a dangerous cross in from the left.
But as he releases the ball, Caicedo stands on Ramsey's ankle. He's down and receiving medical treatment.
And we're back under way at Villa Park
Double change for Brighton:
Off: Veltman, Ayari.
On: Estupinan, Caicedo.
10 - Harry Kane has now scored 10 goals on the final day of the season in the Premier League, the most of any player:
10 - Harry Kane
9 - Andrew Cole
9 - Les Ferdinand
8 - Matt Le Tissier
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 28, 2023
Half-time round up
Arsenal 3 Wolves 0
Aston Villa 2 Brighton 1
Brentford 0 Man City 0
Chelsea 1 Newcastle 1
Crystal Palace 0 Nottm Forest 1
Everton 0 Bournemouth 0
Leeds 0 Tottenham 1
Leicester 1 West Ham 0
Man Utd 1 Fulham 1
Southampton 2 Liverpool 2
As it stands, Aston Villa are qualifying for the Europa Conference League.
Everton and Leeds are going down.
Half-time: Aston Villa 2 Brighton 1
Aston Villa went ahead through Douglas Luiz's early goal and then Ollie Watkins doubled the lead before Undav pulled one back to make things a little bit nervous at Villa Park.
45+2 mins: Aston Villa 2 Brighton 1
Steele plays a long-ball in behind the Villa defence, Ferguson on the end of it...
But Villa have squeezed up enough, disciplined, and the flag's gone up.
45+1 mins: Aston Villa 2 Brighton 1
It's a poor ball in from Digne from the corner, it's flat and floated, lacking pace. Catching practice for Steele in the end.
45 mins: Aston Villa 2 Brighton 1
Three minutes of added time. Digne corner to come.
44 mins: Aston Villa 2 Brighton 1
Undav is played through with another classy pass from Enciso, an incisive ball through the Villa defence, Mings not tracking his man closely enough.
The Brighton forward gets his shot away, first time, but it's a strong save from Martinez, with his feet, to keep Villa ahead.
41 mins: Aston Villa 2 Brighton 1
Douglas Luiz fancies himself from 30 yards with a free kick.
It's a powerful shot, but several yards over Steele's crossbar.
GOAL! Aston Villa 2 Brighton 1 (Undav, 38)
The ball is sent in from the free kick, 40 yards out, Undav shows amazing spatial awareness in the inside-right channel to touch with his head past Mings before firing the ball past Martinez with his second touch. A Var check before the goal is given.
35 mins: Aston Villa 2 Brighton 0
Watkins with terrific hold-up play before sending Ramsey through, who lets rip on the left-edge of the box. The ball takes a deflection and goes out for a corner.
32 mins: Aston Villa 2 Brighton 0
Ramsey with another lethal ball into the Brighton box, Watkins is almost there as Steele is to it first, dropping it before gathering.
Villa are almost in again, McGinn hitting the ball first time from Watkins' head down on the edge of the Brighton box.
30 mins: Aston Villa 2 Brighton 0
Mac Allister with a clever pass to play Gross into the Villa box in the inside-left channel, but he dithers on it trying to find a way through and ultimately loses the ball and Villa clear their lines.
GOAL! Aston Villa 2 Brighton 0 (Watkins, 26)
It all started with McGinn closing down Mac Allister with a great show of strength in the centre of the park.
It then rolls to Bailey who puts in a terrific ball forward to Ramsey who is through one-on-one against Steele. He releases the ball last-minute to Ollie Watkin on his right, leaving the Villa forward only needing to tap-in to an open goal for his 15th of the season.
24 mins: Aston Villa 1 Brighton 0
Ramsey wraps his right foot around the ball to shape a shot at goal from outside the area, but he doesn't get enough curl on it and it's just over Steele's top-right corner.
As it stands
Villa are securing the Europa Conference League spot.
Harry Kane's goal for Spurs over at Leeds
A disastrous start for Leeds! 😱
Harry Kane opens the scoring for Spurs inside three minutes after a great team move from the visiting side 🎯 pic.twitter.com/CxK8uuwkkD
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) May 28, 2023
19 mins: GOAL DISALLOWED! Aston Villa 1 Brighton 0
Enciso is played in down the left channel, a long ball from the back. He just keeps it in, cuts inside, looking for the middle of the goal with his cross to an onrushing Undav who tucks it past Martinez.
But Enciso was just off in the build-up. It's chalked after a Var check.
GOAL! Aston Villa 1 Brighton 0 (Douglas Luiz, 8)
The ball is cut out left to Ramsey, who then takes a couple of touches, looks like he's about to take his man on, Veltman, but then spots a free Douglas Luiz lurking on the edge of the area.
He drags it back to him and the Villa midfielder slots it into the bottom-right corner.
5 mins: Aston Villa 0 Brighton 0
The ball comes in from the left, Bailey gets past Gross and takes a left-footed shot which is deflected onto the bar!
GOAL! Leeds 0 Tottenham 1 (Harry Kane, 2)
Harry Kane has put Tottenham ahead at Leeds.
Aston Villa vs Brighton is under way.
Kick off in a couple of minutes across the 10 matches on the final day of the Premier League
Arsenal v. Wolverhampton
Aston Villa v. Brighton
Brentford v. Man City
Chelsea v. Newcastle
Crystal Palace v. Nottm Forest
Everton v. AFC Bournemouth
Leeds v. Tottenham Hotspur
Leicester v. West Ham
Man Utd v. Fulham
Southampton v. Liverpool
What do Everton, Leicester or Leeds need to avoid relegation?
One of three will survive. Everton's fate is in their own hands. If they beat Bournemouth at Goodison Park they will survive and Leicester and Leeds will be relegated.
Leicester must beat West Ham at home. Dean Smith’s team have a superior goal difference to Everton, so a victory combined with dropped points by Everton would see Leicester stay up and Everton go down.
Leeds need to beat Spurs and hope the other two results go their way. In all likelihood, Leeds require three points, Leicester failing to win and an Everton defeat to stay up.
There is a scenario in which a Leeds win and Everton draw sees Allardyce’s team finish above Everton on goals scored or goal difference. However, this would require Leeds to win by three goals or more.
Leicester’s goal difference is significantly better than Leeds’s though, so the Yorkshire club would still need Leicester to drop points in order to stay up.
Who's going down today?
Alan Tyers has our relegation live blog up-and-running, taking in all the action from Leeds', Leicester's and Everton's bids for survival.
Your predictions for Europa Conference League qualification?
Let us know in the comments below.
Brighton warm up
European qualification permutations: how can Aston Villa qualify?
If Aston Villa match Tottenham's result at Leeds they will finish above Spurs in seventh and qualify for the Europa Conference League.
Spurs need to beat Leeds and hope Villa drop points at home to Brighton, or else face a first season without European competition since 2009-10.
Liverpool and Brighton are safe in the Europa League positions.
Telegraph Sport's Matt Law is at Villa Park this afternoon
Real sense of anticipation in the air at Villa Park with the home team trying to qualify to play in Europe for the first time in 13 years. Unai Emery has named an unchanged team from the one that drew at Liverpool last week.
Brighton can enjoy the final day after securing Europa League qualification already and manager Roberto Di Zerbi has made six changes from the team that drew with Manchester City. Lewis Dunk, who has been recalled to the England squad, starts on the substitutes' bench.
All change for Man City
Seven changes from the draw with Brighton for Pep Guardiola's men for their trip to Brentford.
In come Ederson, Laporte, Ake, Gomez, Phillips, Alvarez and Palmer.
Haaland, Gundogan, Rodri, Bernardo Silva, Stones and Ortega are all on the bench. No De Bruyne, Dias, Grealish or Akanji.
Unai Emery expects tough test for Aston Villa's final step to return to Europe
Unai Emery said:
We have to be very ambitious and I am. I'm here trying to push everybody, to demand from everybody to get better playing and to take European places.
We have to take each step being strong and being passionate about how to do it. We are in this way. We are progressing very well.
I'm very, very happy with the players and their commitment, their character and they are responding very well. We are also connecting with our supporters.
The most difficult step is to get it, but we have our objective. And then if we don't, it's not changing our idea or our mind about how we want to improve.
Villa vs Brighton: Roberto De Zerbi makes six changes
Joel Veltman, Adam Webster, Yasin Ayari, Deniz Undav, Alexis Mac Allister and Evan Ferguson all start for Brighton, who have already sealed a Europa League place.
Villa are unchanged following last week's 1-1 draw at Liverpool., as the hosts chase a Europa Conference League qualifying spot.
Team arrival: could this be Villa's first return to Europe since 2010?
Team news: Leeds vs Tottenham
Leeds: Robles, Ayling, Kristensen, Wober, Cooper, Struijk, McKennie, Forshaw, Koch, Harrison, Rodrigo.
Subs: Meslier, Firpo, Aaronson, Roca, Summerville, Rutter, Gnonto, Greenwood, Mullen.
Tottenham: Forster, Emerson, Sanchez, Lenglet, Davies, Porro, Bissouma, Skipp, Son, Kulusevski, Kane.
Subs: Richarlison, Danjuma, Tanganga, Lucas Moura, Sarr, Austin, Craig, Alonso, Abbott.
Team news: Brentford vs Man City
Brentford: Raya, Hickey, Pinnock, Mee, Henry, Onyeka, Janelt, Damsgaard, Mbeumo, Wissa, Jorgensen.
Subs: Schade, Dasilva, Ghoddos, Ajer, Strakosha, Baptiste, Roerslev, Stevens, Trevitt.
Man City: Ederson, Walker, Ake, Laporte, Lewis, Phillips, Foden, Gomez, Mahrez, Alvarez, Palmer.
Subs: Stones, Gundogan, Haaland, Rodri, Ortega, Bernardo Silva, Charles, Robertson, Knight.
Team news: Aston Villa vs Brighton
Aston Villa: Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Mings, Digne, Kamara, Douglas Luiz, Ramsey, McGinn, Bailey, Watkins.
Subs: Diego Carlos, Traore, Buendia, Chambers, Ashley Young, Olsen, Dendoncker, Revan, Patterson.
Brighton: Steele, Ayari, Webster, Colwill, Veltman, Gross, Mac Allister, Buonanotte, Undav, Enciso, Ferguson.
Subs: Dunk, Welbeck, Mitoma, Caicedo, Gilmour, van Hecke, Estupinan, McGill, Hinshelwood.
Unai Emery could be taking Brentford on a European tour
Aston Villa have not played in Europe since losing a Europa League play-off against Rapid Vienna in 2010, but Unai Emery has plans to take them on a tour of the continent next season.
If Villa match Tottenham's result at Leeds this afternoon they will finish above Spurs in seventh and qualify for the Europa Conference League. Given West Ham's run to the final this season and Unai Emery's exemplary record in knockout competitions, Aston Villa would have an excellent chance of winning that trophy.
"For me, the pressure is amazing to try to feel matches when you're playing for something important," Emery said.
"We want to be excited, not anxious, but to be excited, be very motivated and to enjoy the process. When you're in the match, you have to be prepared to focus only on your game plan.
"The players are doing that. When you are very focused and you're really trying to work hard on your style and idea, and your players are practicing hard, this is a good way.
"That is a moment you feel you are doing all you can on the pitch."
From Tottenham's point of view, they need to beat Leeds and hope Villa drop points, or else face a first season without European competition since 2009-10. Liverpool and Brighton are safe in the Europa League positions.
Spurs are not without a chance though, particularly when you account for the quality of football produced by Roberto De Zerbi's Brighton since the World Cup. Villa fans will be hoping Brighton's players are feeling the effects of celebrating a top six finish, while midfielders Alexis Mac Allister and Moises Caicedo could make their final appearances for the club.
Brentford must beat Manchester City and hope neither Villa or Spurs win to have a chance of pinching seventh on 59 points.
Full team news on the way shortly.