Aston Villa were finally back in Premier League action on Monday evening and Dean Smith’s side got off to a dream start in more ways that one.
Having endured a relegation battle for the most-part last term, it was refreshing to see the Midlands outfit pick up all three points against Sheffield United, who themselves were contending for a surprise spot in Europe.
Ezri Konsa headed home the winner in the 63rd minute after central defensive partner Tyrone Mings flicked on a Matt Targett corner, though the game wasn’t without it’s controversy and excitement.
Blades defender John Egan saw red inside the opening 15 minutes for what was adjudged to be a last-man foul on Ollie Watkins – but it was another debutant that stole the show at Villa Park.
Signing just last week for a whopping £20m, former Arsenal shot-stopper Emiliano Martinez came straight into the starting XI and duly delivered on his maiden bow.
The 6 foot 5 cat was tasked with saving a penalty just after the half-hour mark after Targett brought down Chris Basham inside the area.
It was John Lundstram that stepped up with the Argentine number one guessing the right direction and perhaps earning his side a rare clean sheet.
Martinez picked up the second-highest rating (7.8) on SofaScore and recorded one high claim and an 86% passing accuracy as well.
Signing the 28-year-old was quite the risk given the severe amount of options Smith has in the goalkeeping department, one of which was former England number one Tom Heaton, who only signed last summer.
So to splash £20m as well as wages thought to be in the region of £60k-per-week was a gamble, but it’s one that has evidently been justified at the very first attempt.
His display was described by BirminghamLive’s Ashley Preece as “immaculate,” “a calm head who looks right at home” and looks every bit worth that eight-figure fee.
Villa have found their new number one for the foreseeable future. Johan Lange has delivered a masterclass in his new role already.
AND in other news, Smith remains interested in “talismanic” £40m “bargain”…