Steven Gerrard makes a winning debut as Aston Villa sink Brighton. football news

Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard enjoyed a winning start to his reign as late goals from Ollie Watkins and Tyrone Mings sealed a 2-0 win against Brighton on Saturday. Gerrard was leading his first Villa match after leaving Scottish champions Rangers during the international break and replacing Dean Smith. The former Liverpool star saw off Watkins and Mings in the final six minutes to give Villa their first win in six Premier League games. Smith was sacked after five consecutive league losses, but Gerrard made an immediate impact as Villa climbed four points above the relegation zone.

Gerrard is the first Villa manager since John Gregory in 1998 to win his first Premier League game in charge.

Swapping a Scottish title race for the tension of a relegation fight south of the border, Gerrard’s return to the Premier League was trumpeted as a move to eventually land his dream job at Liverpool.

But Gerard is adamant he is focused on turning Villa into a serious Premier League force capable of qualifying for Europe.

Gerrard’s three-and-a-half-year spell at Rangers saw him rebuild the club and end Celtic’s nine-year reign as champions.

For now, he will be taking Villa away from the relegation zone in his first taste of Premier League management.

In his first match schedule notes, Gerrard promised that “standards would be exceedingly high” as he avoided relegation, making it clear that the term should be a springboard for more productive seasons in the future.

One of his first notable decisions was the banning of tomato ketchup from Villa’s training ground canteen as he tried to improve the fitness of his players and he showed no sign of flagging against Brighton.

Gerrard immediately ordered his players to bark in the technical area and Villa almost responded to the cajoling with the opening goal.

Matt Targett’s cross took out Matty Cash and his header made a fine defense from Jason Steele.

Brighton enjoyed considerable possession after that Villa near-miss, coming close to the opening goal through Leandro Trossard.

Marc Cucurella’s pass fell to Trossard in the Villa area and his strike forced a fine defense from Emiliano Martínez.

Chances were at a premium for Villa but England defender Mings saw a long-distance drive narrowly wide.

Mings came even closer in the second half when Steele tipped his thumping header.

Gerrard appealed in vain for a penalty when a Soli March challenge sent Cash to the turf.

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Brighton were comfortably on hold until the 83rd minute, when Watkins, captured just inside Brighton half, advanced into Albion territory before turning his shot into the far corner.

Five minutes later, Mings blocked an Adam Webster effort from a corner and fired into the roof of the net to give Gerard Era a lift-off.

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