Ollie Watkins and John McGinn steer Aston Villa to victory over Lille

Ollie Watkins and John McGinn – Ollie Watkins and John McGinn steer Aston Villa to victory over Lille

Aston Villa 2 Lille 1

This was Unai Emery’s 1000th game as a manager and his magic touch in Europe will be required to keep Aston Villa dreaming of silverware.

Emery is the serial trophy winner who has progressed in his last seven quarter-finals in European competitions, yet he heads to France next week with this tie finely poised.

With the Prince of Wales and son George in attendance, this landmark occasion for Emery sustained late damage after a potentially crucial goal from Lille.

The Prince of Wales and Prince George – Ollie Watkins and John McGinn steer Aston Villa to victory over Lille
The Prince of Wales (centre) and Prince George (right) were in attendance at Villa Park - Getty Images/Marc Atkins

Villa had raced into a two-goal lead and appeared in control, but the Ligue 1 club were impressive and Bafode Diakite’s 84th minute header has placed a different complexion on Thursday’s second leg.

This week was always going to prove a defining moment in Villa’s season, as they pursue a Champions League place and European glory.

Villa face Premier League leaders Arsenal on Sunday, after dropping out of the top-four for the first time in two months last weekend.

Yet this competition remains a priority and though Villa remain the favourites, the rematch next week could be hazardous.

Emery said: “We have to be ready there to play 90 minutes and even extra-time and a penalty shootout, because in this moment everything is difficult.

“This is a good result because we won but we have to stay positive and be clinical.”

Lille have the best home record in Ligue 1 and proved here why they have earned so many admirers under highly-rated manager Paulo Fonseca.

Ollie Watkins headed Villa in front after 13 minutes with his 25th goal of the season but his team required an excellent performance from goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.

The Argentina World Cup winner produced two impressive saves from close range in the first-half, denying Edon Zhegrova and Jonathan David.

Frustration was building and Fonseca was booked by referee Espen Eskas for dissent before a confrontation between both dug-outs at the half-time whistle. Emery’s assistant Pako Ayestaran was sent off.

Villa extended their lead 12 minutes into the second half when John McGinn rolled the ball into the corner from 18 yards.

Lille did respond and while Gabriel Gudmundsson’s effort was ruled out for offside after a Var review, Diakite’s header has given them hope.

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 3 months with unlimited access to our award-winning website, exclusive app, money-saving offers and more.