Former Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina made a stunning return to the Premier League as the veteran shot-stopper helped inspire Aston Villa to a vital 2-1 win over relegation rivals Watford.
Reina, 37, made his long-awaited return to the English top-flight almost seven years since his departure from Merseyside in 2013.
The Spaniard was signed by the Midlands outfit as emergency cover to England international Tom Heaton who has been ruled out for the rest of the season.
Villa secured their first win in five matches to leapfrog the Hornets and move temporarily out of the relegation zone.
Lifelong Birmingham City fan Troy Deeney returned to Villa Park to rub salt in the wounds following his first-half opener. Douglas Luiz equalised after 68 minutes before Tyrone Mings’ late goal sent Villa Park into raptures in the fifth minute of added time.
COME ON! ➕3⃣ This team must never give up. Great win in front of a wonderful Villa Park 🏟 Thanks everyone for the support and the “welcome” 💪🏻☺ The atmosphere has been amazing 🦁💜 #UTV #AVFC pic.twitter.com/RO3S6dFuSN
— Pepe Reina (@PReina25) January 21, 2020
Reina made his home debut for his new club and the World Cup-winning goalkeeper made a serious impression on his inaugural bout – including a crucial double save to deny Deeney a second.
The former Bayern Munich shot-stopper is on loan from AC Milan and his return to the Premier League seemed effortless following a faultless display.
A fan favourite at both Liverpool and Napoli, Reina continues to impress wherever he goes. The three-time Premier League Golden Glove winner could prove to be an excellent signing should he help keep Dean Smith’s side in the top-flight.
Following the victory, many supporters took to Twitter to praise the former Liverpool hero following such a bright start for his new club.
— Si señor (@merseysido) January 22, 2020
— Ioannis O Connell (@Ioannis82) January 22, 2020
Pepe Reina still doing the business. Still up there with the best.
— Bradley. (@ItsbradleyC) January 21, 2020
Everything Pepe Reina has done since signing for the club, his 2 performances have been class, his social media posts and his interviews show that he just gets it. What a Brilliant signing #avfc
— Kev (@Kevavfc1993) January 21, 2020
This kind of passion from a loan player is something special, thank you Pepe 👏👏
— Philip Fitzgerald 🦁 (@philipf9) January 21, 2020
Pepe Reina is the first keeper I’ve seen at Villa with genuine ability with the ball at his feet. His composure and passing range is world class and his influence is shown by the increased possession we’ve enjoyed in the last 2 games, as well as his incredible saves. #avfc pic.twitter.com/GiLkOPl1rp
— Noah Rowell (@NjR02_14) January 21, 2020