MX23RW : Thursday, August 5 14:56:34| >> :120:7402:7402:
Mar 16, 2019 at 3pm UK at Villa Park (Birmingham)
Attendance: 36,263
Aston Villa
3-0
Middlesbrough
El-Ghazi (28'), McGinn (44'), Adomah (88')
FT(HT: 2-0)

We've a smile on our faces again - Villa boss Dean Smith

We've a smile on our faces again - Villa boss Dean Smith
© Reuters
Villa have won four consecutive matches for the first time in 13 months.

Dean Smith claims his players now have a spring in their step after Aston Villa returned to the top six for the first time in six months following a 3-0 home win over Middlesbrough.

Goals from Anwar El Ghazi, John McGinn and Albert Adomah gave Villa a fourth successive win – the first time they have achieved such a feat for 13 months.

Smith said:  "It was a really good performance.  They defended in numbers and it was difficult to break them down as they shut down the middle of the pitch.

"But we never stopped trying to go forward and score, and in the end, it was a very good performance.

"There is momentum as we have put in some fine displays of late. Defensively we looked very solid, which had been our major problem this season, and from the front, our counter-attacking set the tone for the match.

"There is a spring in our step. There are eight games to go and there is now a smile on our faces."

Smith, however, still preached a note of caution, adding: "Obviously, there are teams which we have to catch and overtake. The job doesn't stop because we have made the top six.

"Our fans are tremendous and it is a difficult place for the opposition to come here and play but we have not achieved anything yet.

"We have to play Bristol City here at Villa Park, although winning four on the spin has given everyone a boost.

"The lads are showing a great deal of enthusiasm and the international break will be welcome to give players time to recover from a hectic time."

Resolute defending kept Middlesbrough in the game in the early stages but they had no answer to the clinical finishing of an ultra-confident Villa side inspired by the skill and finesse of the talented Jack Grealish.

Most of Villa's play revolved around Grealish and this eventually resulted in an easy win, and a third successive defeat for Boro, who are just a point ahead of Villa in fifth place.

Manager Tony Pulis was far from happy with his team's latest performance as he said: "It has been a difficult week after Wednesday's game (a 2-1 home defeat to Preston). The team was flat.

"I thought we slow and sluggish in the opening 20 minutes, and we gave away three shocking goals. They had five shots on target and scored three.

"It was a great ratio for them but the goals we conceded were very poor and it was unlike us.

"Having said that, Villa are a top side and they have the momentum at the moment.

"The international break has come at a good time for us. It will be a break to clear their heads and get going again. We have to do better than we did against Villa."

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Tony Pulis in charge of Middlesbrough on January 19, 2019
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· The women's heptathlon continues with the long jump, javelin and 800m, with Katarina Johnson-Thompson now out of contention following an injury (1.10am-1.40pm)
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