By Anthony Onifade

26th Oct, 2023 | 6:31pm

Youri Tielemas delivers first-half Aston Villa masterclass v AZ Alkmaar, Unai Emery now on high alert

It was a first half to remember for Aston Villa as they went in at half-time 2-0 up against AZ Alkmaar in a dominant and assured display at the AFAS Stadium in the Europa Conference League group stage tie.

The Villans came into this game in fantastic form, going four games unbeaten, which is something that they continued following the recent international break by defeating West Ham United 4-1 at the weekend.

The Dutch Eredivisie giants started off the game (26 October) as they’ve continued on this season and could well have been ahead inside eight minutes when Dani De Wit latched onto a cross with a header which went well wide.

However, it was Aston Villa lit the blue touch paper when Leon Bailey bagged his sixth goal of the campaign with a superb volley just inside the penalty area after 13 minutes.

The Dutch outfit were appealing for handball as soon as the ball went in, but replays showed the ball was adjudged to have hit his chest rather than his arm before he struck a sweetly hit volley with his right foot.

AZ could have had an equaliser under ten minutes later when Vangelis Pavlidis got clear of the Villa defence but his shot was easily saved by Emiliano Martinez.

Youri Tielemans put the away side 2-0 up when he was brilliantly found by John McGinn in the penalty area before cooly slotting the ball past former Brighton goalkeeper Matt Ryan.

A few minutes later, AZ could have had an instant reply when Boubacar Kamara was dispossessed deep inside his own half and Pavlidis was put through on goal one one-on-one with Martinez but skewed his effort surprisingly wide of the Aston Villa goal.

The Dutch giants again thought they’d grabbed a much-needed consolation after half-an-hour but Pavlidis’ effort was ruled out for offside but every time both teams got forward, they certainly looked like scoring.

Nonetheless, Emery will be ecstatic with the performance of Tielemans who certainly delivered a masterful showing in-behind Ollie Watkins.

The 26-year-old has struggled for game time since joining the Villans on a free transfer in the summer from Leicester City and is yet to start a Premier League fixture for the West Midlands club.

The midfielder had appeared to have fallen out of favour under Emery despite only arriving in the summer transfer window.

He made his feelings known about how Unai Emery has been utilising him since his arrival from Leicester City in the summer when speaking to the media on international duty [DH les Sports, 8 September].

Football Insider reported on 11 October that the Belgium international wants to leave Villa Park in January due to a fallout with manager Unai Emery.

However, that now looks very unlikely after this masterclass at the AFAS Stadium for which Emery will now be on high alert to start him again in the very near future.

As per SofaScore, Tielemans was given the best average score of anyone on the pitch at half-time, bagging the all-important second goal, while completing 100% of his passes, winning two of his three ground duels and registering 19 touches in an encouraging performance.

In other Aston Villa news, the ball is in Youri Tielemans’ court over his future at the club.