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Alex Moreno stars as Aston Villa progress in Europa Conference League

Aston Villa’s Alex Moreno scores their second goal on Thursday (Joe Giddens/PA)
Aston Villa’s Alex Moreno scores their second goal on Thursday (Joe Giddens/PA)

Alex Moreno fired Aston Villa into the Europa Conference League knockout stages after a 2-1 win over Legia Warsaw.

The defender’s first goal, on his first appearance of the season following a hamstring injury, sent Unai Emery’s side top of Group E.

Moussa Diaby opened the scoring before Ernest Muci seized on Boubacar Kamara’s defensive gaffe to level.

Victory came after Legia fans clashed with police pre-match, launching missiles and injuring three officers to ensure there were no visiting supporters inside Villa Park.

Around 2,000 fans had gathered, despite Legia having a restricted allocation of 1,000 following supporters’ behaviour in Alkmaar, and were barred from entering the stadium, sparking a row between the clubs with both issuing statements criticising each other.

There was no love lost between the clubs, yet it was a fairly forgettable game.

Four years ago this week Villa boss Unai Emery was sacked by Arsenal after overseeing their longest winless run since 1992.

He lasted just 18 months after replacing Arsene Wenger at the Emirates but recovered to win the Europa League with Villarreal, the fourth time he had lifted the trophy.

Having taken Villa back into Europe for the first time in 13 years, they reached the knockout stage of the newest competition with a game to spare, although need a point in Mostar in two weeks to book top spot.

Legia beat them 3-2 in Warsaw in the opening game in September, opening the scoring after just three minutes, but this time it took the hosts 60 seconds longer to take the lead.

Youri Tielemans sent Diaby clear down the right and with the freedom to cut inside, with Artur Jedrzejczyk rapidly backpedalling, he curled into the bottom corner.

Emery’s side went for the kill and Jhon Duran’s pace saw him tear past Steve Kapuadi and Jedrzejczyk, only to be denied by Kacper Tobiasz before Clement Lenglet nodded the resulting corner wide.

The hosts were in control – with no Legia fans in the stadium – but Villa Park was silenced after 20 minutes.

It was all of the hosts’ own making when Robin Olsen, handed a rare start, found Kamara on the edge of the area only for the midfielder to play a blind pass straight to Muci.

The Albania international, who scored twice against Villa in September, still had plenty to do but kept his cool to lift a fine effort over the stranded Olsen from the edge of the box.

With it, Villa lost their mojo and Legia flourished although it took until three minutes after the break for them to go close to adding a second.

Pawel Wszolek crossed and Gil Dias stooped to send a looping header onto the top of the bar with Olsen beaten.

The escape roused Villa and Tobiasz thwarted Diaby before Moreno grabbed the winner after 59 minutes.

The left back, making his first appearance since May, latched onto Douglas Luiz’s free-kick to hook in from close range.

From then, Villa saw the game out and could have even had a third with three minutes left when Leon Bailey hit the bar after lobbing Tobiasz.