Emiliano Martinez made more saves than he has in any Premier League match to deny Brighton victory, as Aston Villa held on to draw 0-0 at the Amex Stadium.
Martinez produced a flying fingertip stop to keep out Dan Burn’s first-half header, but saved his best work for after the break to frustrate a familiarly profligate Brighton side.
Deflected efforts from Alexis Mac Allister and Joel Veltman had the Argentinian at his very best before he also kept out substitute Danny Welbeck’s close-range effort late on as he made nine saves in total.
Villa offered little in attack, with Ross Barkley’s tame effort from distance their only shot on target in an out-of-sorts performance, which still lifts them above Tottenham into eighth, while Brighton move 11 points clear of the bottom three and past Burnley, into 15th position.
Brighton: Sanchez (6), Burn (7), Dunk (7), White (7), Veltman (7), Gross (6), Bissouma (8), Alzate (6), Mac Allister (7), Maupay (6), Trossard (7).
Subs: Lallana (7), Welbeck (7).
Aston Villa: Martinez (8), Cash (6), Konsa (6), Mings (7), Targett (6), Luiz (6), McGinn (6), Barkley (4), Traore (5), Watkins (5), Grealish (5).
Subs: Elmohamady (5), Trezeguet (5), Sanson (6).
Man of the match: Emiliano Martinez
Martinez the hero as Brighton suffer old issues
With goals still a premium despite their recent upturn in form, Brighton boss Graham Potter would have been encouraged to see the conviction with which his side started, with Mac Allister heading wide a lovely cross from Veltman.
Intention was never lacking from the hosts, but attacking quality was still at a premium. Despite registering 12 shots before the break, only Burn’s header from a corner forced Martinez into any real difficulty.
“Brighton don’t finish teams off. What happens, they’ll get hurt second half, with a bit of quality from Aston Villa,” Sky Sports’ Micah Richards said at half-time.
In the first period, Brighton had restricted their hosts to a solitary shot. Within a minute, Villa fired a warning that they may have re-emerged a different side with Barkley firing straight at Robert Sanchez from 20 yards, but it never manifested into anything more.
Instead, Brighton picked up where they left off. Mac Allister’s deflected shot was smartly saved by Martinez’s legs, before he was again at his best as another ricochet took Veltman’s effort towards the top corner, where it was met by a firm glove from the ‘keeper.
Brighton substitute Welbeck nearly found a way in when Tyrone Mings’ poor clearance was pounced on and the ex-England striker was denied by Martinez, who put his body on the line to keep him out from close range.
What the managers said…
Brighton manager Graham Potter: “It should have been three [goals], on the balance of the game. We created more chances, we pretty much did everything more, but on the key stat we were level. But the overall performance was fantastic against a team with a lot of attacking players, and we restricted them.
“If we play like that, we’ll pick up points in this league. We look solid. Again it wasn’t just a defensive display, we attacked well and had courage with the ball. I thought we were the better team and did everything but score.”
Aston Villa manager Dean Smith: “We weren’t even bang average. I’ve never seen us make so many unforced errors, we just kept giving the ball away from start to finish. It was sloppy. But we showed resilience to keep the ball out of the net.
“It was disappointing all round, the only thing to come from it is a clean sheet and resilience we’ve shown. [Martinez] made some good saves when needed, and was our best player on the pitch tonight.
“We’ve not had too many performances like this where we’ve been second best, but thankfully a point and a clean sheet. It’s another point to the tally but we’re disappointed with our performance tonight.”
Man of the match – Emiliano Martinez
Sometimes, picking a man of the match is a tough call. Not here. Martinez was the star of the show to earn Aston Villa a point they otherwise barely deserved.
His saves in either half were often routine, but on occasions needed some real quick thinking – including a second-half pair of saves from deflected efforts which could easily have caught him out. “He was our best player,” said a relieved Smith after the game. It wasn’t even close.
- Brighton and Hove Albion have gone unbeaten in six consecutive top-flight games for the first time since a run of eight ending in November 1981.
- Only Manchester City (7) have conceded fewer away goals in the Premier League this season than Aston Villa (10), with the Villans keeping more clean sheets on the road than any other side (7).
- The last seven league games in which Brighton have hosted Aston Villa have seen just eight goals scored in total, with neither side managing to score more than one goal in a game in this run (one win each, five draws).
- Brighton and Hove Albion attempted 26 shots – the most they have ever recorded in a single Premier League match.
- Emiliano Martínez has kept seven away clean sheets in the Premier League this season – the only Aston Villa goalkeeper to register more away shutouts in a single campaign in the competition was Brad Friedel in 2009-10 (8).
- Despite only coming on in the 62nd minute, no player created more chances in the match than Brighton’s Adam Lallana (4).
Brighton host Crystal Palace on Monday Night Football on February 22, live on Sky Sports Premier League from 7pm; Kick-off at 8pm.
Aston Villa have a Midlands derby next up with Leicester visiting Villa Park on February 21, live on Sky Sports Premier League as part of Super Sunday from 1pm; Kick-off at 2pm.