Konsa gives Villa winning start against 10-man Blades
September 22 2020 01:34 AM
Aston Villa’s English defender Ezri Konsa (left) jumps to head the ball over Sheffield United’s Iris
Aston Villa’s English defender Ezri Konsa (left) jumps to head the ball over Sheffield United’s Irish defender Enda Stevens (second left) to score the opening goal during their English Premier League match at Villa Park in Birmingham yesterday. (AFP)

AFP Birmingham, United Kingdom

Aston Villa kicked off their Premier League campaign with a 1-0 victory over 10-man Sheffield United yesterday as Ezri Konsa bagged the winner after Emiliano Martinez saved a penalty for the hosts.
United were a man down early on after captain John Egan was sent off for a foul on Ollie Watkins. Villa keeper Martinez saved John Lundstram’s first half penalty in his first appearance following his £17 million ($21 million) move from Arsenal last week. Konsa sealed the points in the second half with a looping header on Tyrone Mings’ flick-on, a well-earned reward for a committed display after he played on despite appearing to injure himself sprinting out for the second half.
It was the perfect start for Dean Smith’s side, who beat Burton Albion in the League Cup second round last week, as they look to avoid a repeat of last season’s relegation battle.
“A very good start, to get three points and a clean sheet you can’t ask for more. I thought we started the game the better and the game changes with the sending off,” Smith said.
After losing at home to Wolves last weekend, United have now lost their last five league games dating back to last season. 
Former Nottingham Forest right-back Matty Cash was given his Villa debut after his close-season transfer and his deep cross provided an early half-chance for John McGinn, who volleyed over from an acute angle. Watkins, another of Villa’s new boys, played a key role as United were reduced to 10 men in the 12th minute.
Tyrone Mings’ high long ball sent Watkins racing through on goal and Egan responded by tugging him back, with referee Graham Scott showing the defender a red card that was confirmed by VAR. 
Wilder introduced on-loan Chelsea defender Ethan Ampadu and moved Chris Basham into midfield and the switch earned United their penalty in the 36th minute. Basham’s clever run onto Oliver Burke’s pass forced Matt Targett to concede the spot-kick, but Martinez came to his rescue as he dived to his right to keep out Lundstram’s strike.
Villa found it hard to make the numerical advantage count and their frustration was mounting when Watkins missed the target from Cash’s cross.
But Konsa finally broke the deadlock from a 63rd minute corner when the defender met Mings’ flick-on with a header that floated past Aaron Ramsdale into the far corner. 
Seven of Villa’s last nine league goals have now come from set-pieces. 
Jack Grealish was close to putting the result beyond doubt when he curled just wide from the edge of the area.

Arsenal sign Dijon 
goalkeeper Runarsson
Arsenal signed Iceland goalkeeper Runar Alex Runarsson from Dijon yesterday to act as back-up for first choice Bernd Leno. Runarsson joins the Premier League club for a reported 1 million pounds ($1.3 million) after agreeing a four-year contract. The 25-year-old replaces Emiliano Martinez after the Argentine keeper joined Aston Villa last week. 
Englishman Matt Macey was on the bench as Arsenal beat West Ham on Saturday.
“We want to create healthy competition for places and we look forward to seeing Alex bring further depth to the goalkeeping position,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta told the club’s website. Runarsson joined Ligue 1 club Dijon in July 2018 and made 13 appearances in all competitions last season.
He started his career with Icelandic outfit KR Reykjavik and went on to join FC Nordsjaelland in Denmark before moving to Dijon.

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