Lee Johnson admits 'gulf in class' as Hibs taught lesson by Aston Villa

A 5-0 home defeat effectively ended Hibs' European hopes.

Lee Johnson saw his Hibs side comprehensively beaten by Aston Villa and admitted there was an insurmountable gulf in quality between the teams.

Villa travelled to Easter Road for the first leg of the Europa Conference League play-off hoping to take a stepo towards the group stage and effectively ended the tie at the half-way stage with a 5-0 win.

Ollie Watkins scored a hat-trick, with Leon Bailey and Douglas Luiz also bagging goals in a strong display from the English Premier League side.

Reflecting on the defeat, the Hibs manager said that there was a clear difference in ability and strength, though he did feel his side could have played better.

“First of all, I’m still proud of the club for being on this stage at this level,” Johnson said. That’s the first thing.

“The reality is we’ve probably got a League One in England-style budget against the fantastic and multi-international standard Aston Villa.

“It was clear tonight that there was a gulf in class. I can’t deny that.

“At the same time, the bit that disappointed me was that I thought there was moments that were within our control that we didn’t control well enough. If you look at the first couple of goals and dissect them, we should have done better.

“We’re gutted because you know, we wanted to show up better than we did.

“Sometimes you got to hold your hands up, admit there’s a gulf in class, gulf in athleticism and try and go again.

“You know, our bread and butter has to be the league now and obviously the cup competitions that we’re in.

“But we get another experience down at Villa Park a week today.”

Johnson, who was taking charge of his 500th game as a manager, thinks there will be some positives to take from going up against an elite side, in that his players will learn from defeat.

“Having played against Premier League teams in the past, you cannot make positional errors because they’re punished,” he said.

“So I hope this experience is a good one, because your lessons can become your teacher. We can grow from having felt the quality of the athleticism, the touch and the tactical work that Villa did tonight.”

The manager and his players will now turn their focus to Saturday’s Premiership clash against Livingston, where he says his players won’t be too affected by their result in European competition.

“I think we have a really good, honest bunch of players. I trust them and they give their all every day,” he said.

“There is a difference. Premier League players now are almost superhuman in their athleticism. It’s the super-elite from all over the world and that’s what you get.

“It was a good experience, and I don’t think it will affect confidence going into the Livingston game.

“But the physical recovery is really key for us because we are a team that needs to use our running power and our physicality at our level to maximise our performances.”

Aston Villa manager Unai Emery looked back on a job well done by his side.

He said: “If we weren’t competitive and serious we could have had problems.

“We spoke before the match about how we had to respect the opponents and be focused and consistent in our game plan.

“We knew if we weren’t we could have lost. We were focused and disciplined and consistent for 90 minutes. That is the mentality I want to create here.”

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