By Ian Parker, PA
Aston Villa answered Steven Gerrard’s demand for ruthlessness in front of goal as they deepened Burnley’s relegation worries with a 3-1 win at Turf Moor on Saturday.
Emiliano Buendia made the most of an opportunity to start ahead of Philippe Coutinho, setting up Danny Ings for the opener and scoring the second himself, before Ollie Watkins headed in a John McGinn cross early in the second half to effectively kill the game.
Though Burnley got one back through Maxwel Cornet in stoppage time, they had no answer to Villa’s clinical finishing as they lost for the first time under caretaker manager Mike Jackson.
Before the game Gerrard had called Villa’s season a disappointment and pointed to their failure to take chances, but this win renewed hope of a top-half finish as they climbed to 11th, still with games in hand on the sides immediately above them.
“I put it on them before the game,” Gerrard said of his attacking players. “We’ve got a lot of people in the team to scrap and do all the dirty work and then it’s important when our moments come the front three go and win us the game. They were ruthless here.
“Danny and Ollie were a good threat together and the service from little Emi was outstanding with John as the back-up with his cross, his quality.
“The three goals were outstanding in different ways. We were coming up against a team in a great place with 10 points out of 12 on the back of the manager bounce and the boys have come to a tough place and put in a top performance.”
Ings, brought into the starting line-up after impressing as a first-half replacement for the injured Leon Bailey against Norwich last week, scored for a fourth consecutive appearance against his former side but his celebrations were muted given Burnley’s predicament.
“I think he likes playing against his old team but I’m sure Danny has got mixed emotions,” Gerrard said of the 29-year-old. “Burnley were good for Danny, he enjoyed his time here, he learned a lot here, he grew and evolved here and I’m sure he wants Burnley to stay up.
“But our focus has got to be Aston Villa now. The team talk before the game was about purpose. We knew Burnley had a big purpose, we knew it was an important game for them, but I said to the players ours has got to mean more.
“That’s to try and finish in the top 10 and we’ve pushed closer to that. There’s always a purpose in football and it’s important we don’t let this season fizzle out.”
Having relegated Norwich with a 2-0 win last weekend and pushed Burnley closer to the drop here, Villa can have another big say when the Clarets visit on May 19, a fixture that was postponed in December due to coronavirus.
“You have to play extremely well to take maximum points off them,” Gerrard said of facing Burnley again.
“It will be a different game. We’ll reset. It’s at our place. It’s a game we’re looking forward to but we’ve got two before it. We’ve got a real tough game against Liverpool on Tuesday so we’ll try and rest and recover the best we can.
“We’ll see what the situation is when that game comes around but the message will be clear – go and take maximum points. There’ll be no sentiment and we’ll go and try and win as many games as we can.”