Stevenage scored two late goals to complete a dramatic comeback as they produced one of the narrow football scores of the weekend in the FA Cup. Despite putting on a lacklustre effort against a team ranked 59 places lower than them, Villa was on the verge of triumph after taking the lead through Morgan Sanson in the first half. But everything changed in the 85th minute when Leander Dendoncker was dismissed for fumbling the ball on the edge of his own area and bringing down replacement Dean Campbell inside the box. The VAR confirmed the dismissal. Jamie Reid, who came off the bench as well, stepped up and calmly scored the penalty. In the 90th minute during a corner, Villa switched off, allowing Campbell to collect the ball and then shoot past Robin Olsen, who could have done better, giving Stevenage the opportunity to force a replay.
In the first half, Stevenage frustrated Aston Villa and came close to seizing the lead. After a VAR review, it was discovered that the precise move that led to Danny Rose’s goal had Luke Norris offside during the build-up. Up until Villa put together a swift passing move that freed Boro, they were limited to long-range attempts. When Danny Ings received the ball from Douglas Luiz after being found by Philippe Coutinho, he transferred it to Leon Bailey, who then handed it to Sanson, who finished low past Taye Ashby-Hammond.
Although Olsen was thoroughly outmatched, Norris’ bending attempt from the left side of the box just missed the top of the crossbar for Stevenage. Within 60 seconds of the restart, Bailey volleyed wide from close range as Villa made a more determined start to the second half. Similarly, Calum Chambers’ attempt from a low Coutinho cross along the six-yard box was just wide of the mark. Stevenage always seemed dangerous when they advanced, but Dendoncker’s error was the catalyst for the change of momentum.
As the midfielder reached the box, Campbell stripped him of the ball and brought him to the ground. Reid made sure Boro took advantage of the double punishment by turning Olsen. When Campbell drove the ball low and hard past Olsen at his near post, it was a memorable FA Cup moment for the 3,000 Stevenage supporters.
“We must continue the process and maintain our high standards, perhaps even raising them now. We are learning more with every game. I want to collaborate with the players and foster a larger mindset. Losing can occasionally be the first step,” Aston Villa manager Unai Emery said. “Since we represent Aston Villa and they represent League Two, we cannot believe we are superior. I feel bad for our supporters and am angry and disappointed. We were angry and lost control of our thoughts when they scored in the final five minutes. I am aware that we must occasionally lose and err. We must use it as quickly as possible to learn so that we can invent a new method.”
“Little Joseph, James, and Mimi, my granddaughters, will learn about this in the coming years. I’ve experienced some extraordinary moments and have overseen numerous victories over Championship clubs, but if you travel to a Premier League team like Aston Villa, it ranks right up there with those experiences,” Stevenage manager Steve Evans said. “The FA Cup is the stuff of dreams, and for the players, the chairman, and the town of Stevenage, seeing over 3,000 supporters and winning the manner we did is fantastic. I told the players that they would have a dream that they would share with their children and grandchildren. The goal for the entire week was to ensure that we were still in the game at 75 minutes.”
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