Nottingham Forest snapped a six-match winless run to beat Aston Villa 2-0 in a Premier League Midlands derby on Sunday, denying the visitors a top-four spot after Ola Aina and Orel Mangala scored goals from outside the box.
The defeat ended Villa’s six-match unbeaten run and left Unai Emery’s side in fifth place, five points behind leaders Manchester City, while Forest kept their first clean sheet at home this season to move up to 12th.
“It’s a really good win. We came up against an in-form Aston Villa side with really good players,” Forest boss Steve Cooper told Sky Sports.
“We were committed to the plan and we’ve scored two goals from where we could create chances… A lot of gratitude for the players to stick with the plan. We were worthy winners.”
Forest had not won a game since early September and the hosts took the lead inside five minutes when Anthony Elanga sprinted down the left, causing Villa’s high defensive line to panic.
Elanga cut it back for Harry Toffolo, who put the ball into midfield space left vacant by the retreating defence and the unmarked Aina pulled the trigger from range to fire a low strike that flew into the bottom corner.
It was Aina’s first goal for the club and Villa’s Emiliano Martínez, fresh off winning the Lev Yashin award for the best goalkeeper in the world at the Ballon d’Or gala, looked on incredulously as the City Ground erupted.
“My goal was one to remember. I’m happy to get off the mark and help the team. We can all be proud, we stuck to the game plan, we dug in and fought for each other,” Aina told Sky Sports.
The goal woke Villa up and they quickly began to dominate possession as Forest stood firm at the back to deny the visitors time and again. Villa had six corners by the end of the first half but could not find a way through.
Just as in the first half, Forest struck early in the second when Martinez conceded another goal from outside the box with an uncharacteristic error.
Mangala struck a ferocious shot that Martinez attempted to save with one hand, but the Argentine could only watch as the ball went up in the air and bounced inside the line as he failed to keep it out.
The visitors desperately tried to claw their way back into the game but Steve Cooper’s side held on for the clean sheet and their first home win over Villa in the Premier League.
“It is very hard to accept the result. We made some mistakes. We conceded early,” Emery said.
“We took this match as a challenge to get [closer to] the top four teams, we didn’t achieve it and there is still work to do to try and correct the mistakes we made today.”