Dean Smith demands more from Aston Villa after 2-1 play-off semi-final win over West Brom

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Goalscorers Conor Hourihane (r) and Tammy Abraham celebrate the Irishman's opener.

Boss Dean Smith praised Jack Grealish but demanded more from Aston Villa following their 2-1 play-off semi-final comeback win over West Brom.

Conor Hourihane’s rocket and Tammy Abraham’s penalty turned the game around in the final 15 minutes to give Villa a narrow lead in their Championship play-off semi-final first leg.

Dwight Gayle opened the scoring but was sent off with two minutes left after collecting a second yellow card for diving in on Villa keeper Jed Steer.

Grealish set up Hourihane and won the spot-kick for Abraham to win it and Smith praised his skipper.

He said: “With the quality he’s got he can create things. That’s where we want him on the ball in the final third.

“Credit to West Brom in the first half, he had to beat four or five players with the numbers they had behind.

“By keeping our width in the second half, it gave us licence to go forward and get into places.”

But Smith expects more from his side after they were forced to battle back from a goal down at Villa Park on Saturday.

He added: “I’m pleased we won the game but not pleased with the performance. We can certainly perform a lot better.

“Albion came with a game plan to sit behind the ball and slow the game down which they did very well and they capitalised on a mistake from us.

“Our movement and use of the ball we didn’t do well enough in the first half.

“We never created as many chances as we should have with the players we’ve got.

“In the second half we were better and we kept our width better. We created more opportunities but it took a really good shot from Hourihane to get us back into it.

“We’ll be going for the win (on Tuesday). That’s how we want to approach games and how the players know I want to approach games.”

Villa went behind when Gayle drilled in from the edge of the area in the 16th minute after Glenn Whelan’s error gave him a clear run through.

Jay Rodriguez had earlier hit the bar and Albion looked like holding on until the 75th minute when Hourihane netted from 20 yards.

Just 202 seconds later Villa were ahead when Kieran Gibbs brought down Grealish in the box and Abraham netted his 26th goal of the season from the spot.

Gayle, who was booked for time wasting, then received a second yellow card after making contact with Steer as he slid in to reach James Morrison’s cross.

He is now banned for Tuesday’s second leg and caretaker boss Jimmy Shan questioned referee Graham Scott’s decisions.

“He’s got booked for allegedly time-wasting for the throw-ins. To my mind, every time the ball went out he had an intent of walking towards to the ball,” he said.

“It’s a new one on me if you have to jog and sprint to restart every time the ball goes out.

“I’ve got no problem with the referee discussing that with him and trying to hurry him up, but not once did Dwight stand still, every time he’s walking to take the throw-in.

“The second one, he’s got every right to contest the ball. It’s a fantastic delivery from James, great timing from Dwight and if he gets contact he’s a two-goal hero. He’s obviously a big player for us, that’s obviously a big frustration.

“He is a goal threat but gives you so much more, he is going to be a big blow (on Tuesday).”

Shan admitted Albion must approach the home leg on the front foot if they are going to overturn the deficit and reach Wembley.

He added: “That’s the approach we’re going to have to have. Maybe tactically we have to have a different approach.

“We sat deeper today, the game plan worked for large parts but we were undone with a shot from distance and a penalty.

“It’s simple communication, when the ball gets squared (for the first goal), to get people in the right slots. We’re frustrated with that one and the momentum swings with them.”

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No nerves for Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola ahead of title-decider against Brighton

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A second Premier League title in sights for Pep Guardiola.

Pep Guardiola claims he is not nervous ahead of Manchester City‘s final-game title decider at Brighton.

City will win the Premier League with victory at the Amex Stadium on Sunday – but any slip-up could allow Liverpool, who trail by just a point, to pip them at the post by beating Wolves.

It makes for a potential nerve-jangling end to the season but Guardiola claims he is relishing the situation and is not as apprehensive as he was before the champions’ crunch clash with Liverpool in January.

City prevailed on that occasion on what was a tense night at the Etihad Stadium, preventing the Merseysiders from opening up a 10-point lead at the summit.

Guardiola, the City manager, said: “I am so happy – no nerves at all. I was nervous before Liverpool, seven points behind, and we could have been 10 points behind.

“It was, ‘Ah, it will be so difficult’. But not now, no way. I sleep like a little boy. It is a dream, a privilege, I love it.”

City have won their last 13 games in what has been a remarkable title race in which they and Liverpool have matched each other almost blow for blow.

Guardiola’s men have needed to show all their champion qualities in their last four games – tight victories over Tottenham, Manchester United, Burnley and Leicester.

City are on a 13-match winning run in the Premier League.

City are on a 13-match winning run in the Premier League.

Dropping points in any of them would have seen the initiative switch to Liverpool, who have won eight in succession and are just a point behind heading into the final round of fixtures.

With such momentum behind them, Guardiola feels his team-talk should take care of itself.

He said: “I would say that I don’t have to say anything to motivate (the players). I think my speech will be zero.

“They want to win the Premier League. What I saw in the training sessions – they want to win it. We are going to go out there at Brighton at 3 o’clock to win the game.

“We have not spoken for two or three days about the Premier League (title) or back-to-back, or what happens if we lose, about celebrations if we win, zero.

“It is just about Brighton, how they defend, their strengths and weak points, what we have to do.

“And on Sunday, ‘Guys, go out and play’. That is all.”

Provided by Press Association Sports

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Manchester City winger Bernardo Silva hungry to clinch historic English domestic treble

Alam Khan 12/05/2019
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Bernardo Silva is aiming for a bumper finish to the season.

Four years ago Bernardo Silva celebrated a domestic treble with boyhood heroes Benfica at the age of 20.

But he will enjoy making history more with Manchester City if they become the first English side to achieve that same feat.

At least the Portuguese forward will have medals this time to mark the occasion.

Victory at Brighton will see City retain the Premier League title – the first time since Manchester United in 2009.

Having already won the League Cup, they will claim a domestic treble if they also defeat Watford in the FA Cup final on May 18.

Bernardo was part of the Benfica squad that won the championship, Portuguese Cup and League Cup in 2014, although he smiled as he recalled: “I didn’t get any medals. I hope this season I can get some medals.

“I didn’t play very much, I played only one game in each competition.

“I celebrated more as a fan back then, because I am a Benfica fan, than as a player because I trained three or four times with them, played five minutes in each game so it didn’t mean as much as a player as, for example, this season will if we win all the competitions.

“It’s very tough to win all the competitions in your country and we’re close to it.

“We haven’t done it yet, two games to go. We have to focus on Sunday first because it is an amazing achievement if we win back-to-back titles.

“We’re very hungry to make something different for this club. So this club has never won two Premier League titles in a row. We want to do it this season.

“We want to win all the domestic competitions, never happened in this club as well, and we want to try to make history. That’s our goal.”

Silva has had a fine season for Guardiola's men.

Silva has had a fine season for Guardiola’s men.

With 13 successive wins since losing at Newcastle in January, City have remarkably managed to recover a seven-point deficit and overhaul Liverpool, who are a point behind despite just one league defeat and described as “unbelievable” by Bernardo.

Last season Pep Guardiola’s men lifted the title with a record-breaking 100 points and finished 19 clear of second-placed Manchester United.

And Bernardo said the ability to fight as well as be flamboyant reflects how complete this team is.

“It says a lot about this squad, a very young squad that will try to win over the year as many titles as possible,” he added.

“I think what Liverpool have done this season is also amazing. They’ve been very good, they’ve pushed us, the way they are playing they make us better because we need to win.

“We make them better as well. So very tough, more emotional this year than it was last season.

“I would prefer to win it like last season, but no, it’s good, it’s good both ways.

“The way we broke all the records last season was also fantastic.

“It will, in my opinion, stay in Premier League history for a long time because the goals, the gap between the first and the second, the points, reaching 100 points, it’s never easy.

“But this season, of course, the way it was, we were seven points behind, almost 10 and to depend on ourselves to the last game, yeah, it means a lot.”

In a tense finale to this dramatic campaign, City have won three of their last four games 1-0, the other was a 2-0 success at neighbours United.

“The last games of the season are always more difficult, everyone is playing for points,” added Bernardo, who has scored 13 goals.

“The pressure is higher and yeah it’s true we’ve been winning games with very, very small margins, but all that matters is another three points.

“You feel you need to win because if you don’t win you don’t win the titles. But we’re used to this because season after season you play for the big things and the players are used to the pressure.

“So it’s a good thing. It means we are still playing for the title and we only depend on ourselves.”

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