Aston Villa's late collapse triggered by Douglas Luiz departure after midfielder's 5,000-mile return

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Aston Villa's late collapse triggered by Douglas Luiz departure after midfielder's 5,000-mile return
Aston Villa's late collapse triggered by Douglas Luiz departure after midfielder's 5,000-mile return

Aston Villa suffered a rarely-seen implosion here - and it came after they had been destabilised by the exit of tiring Douglas Luiz.

The Brazil midfielder had been on the pitch for his national team only 36 hours before this game, in Manaus, 5,000 miles away.

Although blame has to be attributed to Villa’s defence for tossing away a 2-0 lead with 10 minutes to play and somehow losing, it was also noticeable that they lost control of the midfield battle.

The faith that Dean Smith, Villa’s manager, has in Luiz was shown by the player starting again here and his mopping up is an asset - but the Brazilian’s performance waned as Villa started getting sloppier generally.

Luiz had offered some protection to the starting Emi Buendia who had performed encouragingly behind the strikers - and Villa’s pressing had got on top of Wolves.

Both men went off before Wolves launched their comeback. When one of the replacements Jacob Ramsey fouled Adama Traore at the death, it led to the free-kick which Ruben Neves scored the winning goal from.

It meant that Wolves dramatically got out of jail after Bruno Lage had appeared to lose the tactical battle.

Lage had used Hwang Hee-chan as a false nine and he looked isolated, not providing the spark that he has already shown he is capable of at Wolves.

Raul Jimenez, meanwhile, had played for Mexico in El Salvador - having bottles thrown at him before scoring a late penalty in San Salvador - and was left out of the starting line-up, and his loss was felt by Wolves. The Mexican stood in front of the press box and was seen looking at the bench, appearing primed to enter the field - which did not happen until the 88th minute when it was 2-2.

While Villa gave away untidy goals and looked disorganised at set-pieces, how Wolves were allowed to make in-roads needs to be considered. Losing their grip of midfield - after Luiz departed - catalysed a change.

Report: Wolves win it at the death as Aston Villa pay for sitting back on two-goal lead

Ruben Neves sparked off rapturous scenes among Wolves’ travelling support when he struck in the 95th minute to compete a late fightback from 2-0 down to win 3-2 at Aston Villa - with all three visiting goals coming in the final 10 minutes.

As he and the visiting players leaped in front of their nearby fans and on top of each other, it was clear what this meant.

Wolves - and many onlookers in the ground - could scarcely believe their eyes when Neves’ late free kick deflected off Matt Targett and trickled in.

Villa had deservedly been two goals clear but Romain Saiss nudged in Wolves’ first then Coady bundled in the equaliser, as the home team failed to deal with balls into their box.

Dean Smith, Villa manager, and his players were left looking in shock when Neves had the final say.

Smith admitted that afterwards his dressing room was “pretty much silent”.

His team had switched off, given Wolves a sniff and they then ravishingly torn into them.

Neves' strike deep into injury time won the match for Wolves in the most dramatic fashion - GETTY IMAGES
Neves' strike deep into injury time won the match for Wolves in the most dramatic fashion - GETTY IMAGES

Bruno Lage’s arrival as Wolves manager promised positivity and bravery and that manifested itself spectacularly here, earning a third successive away win.

“These are the kinds of days I want to live in my career,” Lage said. “I’m not an emotional guy. But this is the kind of game that will be remembered.”

Earlier, it had looked like John McGinn was going to follow up his heroics for Scotland last weekend with a match-winning display for Villa, as he scored one goal and skilfully teed up another - and, at that stage, very few observers would have seen a turnaround coming.

“It’s a crazy 10 minutes, we very rarely see that in football,” Smith said. “I’m trying to process it. We ended up losing a game we should never have lost. You’ve got to defend your box better. It’s a lesson learned.”

Wolves had left out Raul Jimenez, who had just travelled back after scoring for Mexico against El Salvador.

Potential tiredness did not stop Villa including Emiliano Martinez, of Argentina, and Douglas Luiz, of Brazil.

Villa created pressure in the first half without breaking through - with the best chance falling to Danny Ings, who had a close-range shot well saved by Jose Sa.

Wolves were below par in the first period but found some more stability and intent in its latter stages. Traore almost scored a wonder goal, evading four Villa players and producing a shot kept out by Martinez’s legs.

The sides went in level at 0-0 but the lack of clinical edge was about to change dramatically in the second period.

Dean SMith - NEWS IMAGES
Dean SMith - NEWS IMAGES

Wolves emerged from the tunnel late; but better late than never - just like their performance.

Villa had taken control when McGinn spun round Saiss - leaving him disorientated - then floated over a pass that Ings headed in from eight yards. McGinn then produced another of his long-range goals - with the help of a deflection from Neves.

After that, Smith did not feel there was a momentum change and said his second-half substitutions were like-for-like ones.

Lage said that Wolves “changed our dynamic” - and the arrivals as subs of Daniel Podence and Fabio Silva made a difference.

Wolves were back in the game when Podence's low cross was finished by Saiss. Suddenly the energy around the stadium changed and nerves could be sensed around the Villa side. The drama continued when Coady scrambled the ball in, with Axel Tuanzebe failing to clear.

Villa Park, generally, had an increasingly nervous feel to it and the home faithful’s nightmare ending came when Neves had his chance.

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