A hat-trick from England striker Ollie Watkins fired Aston Villa to a sensational 6-1 thrashing of high-flying Brighton and Hove Albion in the Premier League on Saturday.
Brighton travelled to the Midlands having only lost once all season, but it was put to the sword by a rampant Villa side in the first half, with a Watkins double and Pervis Estupinan own goal catapulting the host into a 3-0 lead by half time.
Substitute Ansu Fati’s first goal since signing on loan from Barcelona early in the second half gave the visitor some hope, but Watkins’ third put the game to bed in the 65th minute, and all in front England manager Gareth Southgate.
“It is nice when he (Southgate) is here but I want to perform and score every game,” Watkins told TNT Sports.
“There have been a few times this season when I have been disappointed and there is always a chance to put it right. I am going to enjoy it.
Jacob Ramsey and Douglas Luiz added to the humiliation with two late goals to crown another fine victory for Villa, which moves up to fourth in the Premier League standings on 15 points, level with Brighton in third.
“Collectively, we were second to none,” Watkins said.
Brighton came into Saturday’s early kick-off having convincingly got the better of Manchester United in its last Premier League away match, continuing to draw plaudits under coach Roberto de Zerbi.
However, it was simply no match for another of the Premier League’s in-form sides at Villa Park, as Villa raced into an early lead through Watkins, who finished well from close range.
Villa then capitalised on a poor error from Joel Veltman to create another opening for Watkins, with the former Brentford hitman cutting onto his right foot before firing home.
Things went from bad to worse for Brighton as Moussa Diaby’s shot was turned into his own net by Estupinan, leaving the visitor shell-shocked after 26 minutes.
Fati’s finish at the far post threatened to ruffle Villa feathers, but Watkins became the first player to score two hat-tricks in all competitions in a season for Villa since Andy Gray in 1976-77 with another well-taken goal.
Brighton capitulated later on, eventually shipping six goals in a single top-flight match for the first time in its history.