BIRMINGHAM - Aston Villa got their season up and running with a laboured 1-0 home win against 10-man Sheffield United on Monday as Ezri Konsa's second-half header proved enough to settle a dour game.
All eyes were on Villa's new record signing Ollie Watkins but it was defender Konsa, a former team mate of Watkins' at Brentford, and debutant goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez who earned their side three points.
Sheffield United had defender John Egan sent off after 12 minutes for pulling back Watkins but wasted a great chance to take the lead before halftime when John Lundstrum's penalty was saved by Martinez, signed from Arsenal last week.
Even with an extra man Villa struggled to create chances against a well-organised United side, but Konsa's 63rd minute header ensured a positive start for Dean Smith's side who last season escaped relegation by the skin of their teeth.
It has been a disappointing start to the campaign for Chris Wilder's United side who have lost two from two without scoring.