Aston Villa coasted into the Carabao Cup third round, Dean Smith’s team soaking up some early pressure from Crewe before their class allowed them to pull away with ease.
The manager was proud of his team’s approach. “I wanted to make sure the attitude was right and show the importance of what [the competition] is. We play for three trophies in a season – this, the FA Cup and the Premier League.
“They caused us some problems, Dave [Artell] has got a young bright team here. Six-one is a really good result.”
This was the fifth meeting of the sides, all taking place in knockout games, Crewe’s best result a 2-2 draw in January 1975 in this competition.
Artell gave a debut to Rio Adebisi, an 18-year-old who lined up at left-back as one of four changes to the League Two team. Smith retained only Jota of the side that defeated Everton on Friday, Marvelous Nakamba, Ezri Konsa and Matt Targett making their debuts. Kortney Hause’s appearance was a first in Villa colours since joining permanently, the 24-year-old defender previously featuring for the club as a loanee from Wolves.
Crewe’s Callum Ainley soon went down the right and placed a cross on to Charlie Kirk’s head but the blond forward could not keep the ball down, a miss soon to prove costly.
Villa moved up the other end and a scramble ensued. Adebisi failed to clear when he should have done and Konsa was able to direct his header past the Crewe goalkeeper, David Richards.
Crewe were contributing to a fast-paced tie. Owen Dale posed problems down the Villa right and Konsa needlessly headed the ball out for a corner in response to the home side’s pressure. When the set piece came in Chris Porter forced a sharp save from Jed Steer and the concession of a second corner, this one from the opposite side. The ball was played in and eventually Dale touched home from the goalline but he was ruled offside, the strike may have been legal without his intervention.
Shortly Kirk warmed Steer’s fingers and the raucous crowd sensed an equaliser was coming. But instead disaster struck Crewe: Lansbury was allowed time by a slumbering defence and he found Conor Hourihane, who slid the ball into an unguarded goal, Richards’s positioning leaving him marooned.
Villa now started to stroke the ball around and close to half-time Anwar El Ghazi found Hourihane who finished coolly again for his second.
This meant Crewe were surely going out and Villa could enjoy the rest of the contest. Ainley was the first to offer a second-half threat, though his shot was off target and, when Dale was put clear, he too missed badly, to the keeper’s right.
This had been the difference: Crewe were profligate, Villa far more ruthless. When Richards – who was having a difficult evening – dallied near his six-yard box Lansbury came close to pickpocketing the keeper and embarrassing him further. The lead came close to moving to four when El Ghazi raced in but his careful attempt cannoned off the left post.
The sense was that Villa were toying with their opponents, moving in second gear. So it was that, when they applied the throttle, the end result was a close-range goal by Keinan Davis.
The substitutes Frédéric Guilbert and Jack Grealish completed the scoring for the five-times winners, Ryan Wintle securing a consolation.
Artell offered an honest appraisal. “We played well in patches, soft as crap in others,” he said. “The gulf in class was there at times, certainly towards the end.”