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Watkins hat-trick fires Villa towards Conference League

Ollie Watkins scored a hat-trick as Aston Villa all but secured a Conference League group-stage place with a 5-0 thrashing of Hibernian in their play-off round first leg on Wednesday.

The Premier League side started their first European campaign since losing in Europa League qualifying in 2010 in fine style.

Unai Emery’s men, who put four past Everton at the weekend, started strongly as Watkins headed home Lucas Digne’s cross in the 17th minute at Easter Road.

Hibs had a penalty appeal waved away soon afterwards but any hopes the Scottish club had of an upset were ended as Watkins and Leon Bailey put former European champions Villa three goals in front before half-time.

Watkins finished another Digne cross to complete his treble less than three minutes into the second period.

Douglas Luiz added a fifth from the spot with 16 minutes left to likely allow Emery to rest players for next week’s second leg.

Wednesday’s other match saw Dnipro-1 draw 1-1 with Trnava in Slovakia.

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