Villa boss Dean Smith hoping spirited cup final display can boost survival bid

Dean Smith hopes Aston Villa’s battling display in the Carabao Cup final can refuel their bid for Premier League survival.

Relegation-threatened Villa went down 2-1 to Manchester City at Wembley but were inches away from forcing extra time when they hit the woodwork in the closing minutes.

Smith was proud of the performance and hopes it can lead to better results when the team return to league action.

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Results elsewhere over the weekend have pushed them down to 19th place.

Villa manager Smith said: “The performance level today is the standard that we have to be.

“We were written off after last week (2-0 loss) at Southampton. We expected a reaction today and we got that. We were taking on one of the best teams in the world.

“We came here to win a trophy and we haven’t managed to do that. Our concentration now goes onto the Premier League.

“You can’t hide away that we’re in the bottom three now. If we play like we did today, then we’ll get out of the relegation zone.”

City were bidding to win the League Cup for a third successive year and looked like they would ease to victory as Sergio Aguero and Rodri scored in the first half-hour.

But a goal from Mbwana Samatta before the break changed the game and the second half was far more competitive. Bjorn Engels almost made it 2-2 late on but Claudio Bravo pushed his header onto the post.

Smith said: “I’m disappointed because we came here with an awful lot of belief. Everyone had written us off, I think we were 18/1 to win, and there was a lot of motivation in that dressing room to go and prove a lot of people wrong.

“I thought the performance was OK and the game-plan was solid but unfortunately you have a mountain to climb against Manchester City when they go 2-0 up.

“I was really pleased with the reaction from the team. I never felt like the game would run away from us.

“I could tell from the players’ body language on the pitch, their eyes when they went out there that they were ready for this game.

“I told the team I was really proud of the performance.”

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