Aston Villa boss Dean Smith hailed a “captain’s performance” from Jack Grealish as his side hit a last-gasp winner to beat 10-man Brighton 2-1 at Villa Park.
Both teams went into the game on the back of fine wins ahead of the international break, Villa thrashing Norwich and Brighton heaping more misery on Tottenham.
But it would be Villa celebrating another three points as they came from behind to win, with Grealish teeing up Matt Targett to score his first goal for the club with almost the last kick of an entertaining contest.
It had looked set to be a frustrating afternoon for Villa after Grealish had equalised in first-half stoppage time, Aaron Mooy having already been sent off for the Seagulls following Adam Webster’s maiden goal for Graham Potter’s side.
But, with Targett tucking away the winner, Smith was able to bask in what was a fine display from his 24-year-old skipper.
“He was excellent,” Smith said of Grealish.
“Other sides that people don’t see or hear or write about, he ran 60 yards back to dispossess a player in our penalty box – it was a captain’s performance today.
“He was integral to everything going forwards. It was no surprise that he scores in front of the Holte End and then gets the assist as well. All in all a good performance from him.”
England manager Gareth Southgate was in attendance to see Grealish’s man of the match performance, the Villa man yet to be capped having opted to represent the Three Lions over the Republic of Ireland.
“I don’t think you could not have been pleased as an England manager watching him,” Smith replied when asked if he felt Southgate would have been impressed.
“But he has got a lot of really very good players to choose from and all Jack can do is keep putting in performance like that and knocking on the door.”
While he saw his side secure a win to take them up to 11th place, Smith was cautious when Targett turned home the winner as the majority of Villa Park was euphoric.
He explained afterwards he was worried the goal would be chalked off by the video assistant referee, having already seen the technology controversially overturn a Conor Hourihane effort in the first half.
Hourihane had lashed home what he thought was an equaliser only for VAR to deem Wesley had fouled Brighton goalkeeper Mat Ryan in the build-up.
Asked if he felt Grealish’s goal celebration had been muted by the earlier VAR call, Smith added: “Mine was at the end.
“It takes a little bit of fun out of the game, in my experience at the moment it has not been a great one.
“We have scored a perfectly good goal and it takes what feels like an age to disallow it and, in my opinion, it shouldn’t be disallowed.
“For the first time I believe this season VAR has got involved in a subjective decision, I must have missed that memo over the international break.”
Brighton boss Potter – who refused to criticise the decision to send off Mooy – was pleased with the performance of his players on the whole, even if he now has the job of picking them up over the next week in preparation for the visit of Everton next week.
“It is a painful one that is for sure,” he said.
“They have everything and when it happens in that manner with the last kick it is particularly heart-wrenching for the players.
“The sending off has a big influence on the match and until then we were the better team and deserved to be 1-0 up.
“Second half I thought we played with tremendous courage and quality.
“I am just disappointed with the result but very proud with us as a team and how we conducted ourselves on the pitch.”
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