Pedro nets late winner as Brighton hit Aston Villa’s Champions League hopes


ASTON VILLA’S quest for Champions League qualification suffered a setback today after Joao Pedro ended Brighton’s six-match Premier League winless run with a dramatic 87th-minute winner.

Unai Emery’s side travelled to the Falmer Stadium knowing victory combined with a Tottenham loss to Liverpool later in the day would guarantee a fourth-placed finish.

But Villa, who are juggling their top-flight commitments with a run to the semi-finals of the Europa Conference League, laboured for large parts of a tight south-coast encounter and were beaten 1-0 after Pedro headed home the rebound when his late penalty was saved by Robin Olsen.

With 19-goal top scorer Ollie Watkins a peripheral figure, the visitors barely threatened, albeit captain John McGinn also had a goal chalked off.

Villa arrived in Sussex on the back of 4-2 home loss to Olympiacos in their Europa Conference League semi-final and with work to do in Thursday’s second leg in Athens.

Manager Emery recalled defensive duo Diego Carlos and Pau Torres following a difficult evening against the Greek side, while Brighton’s starting XI showed three changes from last week’s dismal 3-0 defeat at Bournemouth.

Out-of-form Albion, seeking only a fourth league win this calendar year, had the better openings during a cagey start.

Simon Adingra stung the palms of Olsen after a neat nutmeg on McGinn before Danny Welbeck diverted a Billy Gilmour corner narrowly over with his back.

The sold-out away end had little to cheer on the pitch as their side struggled for rhythm in a forgettable first half, disrupted by Morgan Rogers departing injured in the 26th minute to be replaced by Matty Cash.

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