Boss Unai Emery believes Aston Villa proved their European credentials after an emphatic 4-1 win at AZ Alkmaar.
Leon Bailey, Youri Tielemans, Ollie Watkins and John McGinn struck as dominant Villa cruised to victory in the Europa Conference League.
It was a second 4-1 win in two games – following Sunday’s victory over West Ham – and Villa earned successive Group E triumphs after dispatching last year’s beaten semi-finalists.
“If we want to be a contender we have to show every day and when we are playing those matches, we have to show everybody our wishes. I think we did it,” Emery told a press conference.
“We are respecting them because they played in the semi-final last year against West Ham. They won last year against Lazio, they won last year against Anderlecht and it’s because they have experiences in European competitions.
“I am very happy with the players because I think they have to be mature, responsible and demanding themselves, not only when I’m pushing them. They have to try to increase their own individual and collective level.”
Bailey opened the scoring when Villa cashed in on wasteful play from AZ and Tielemans doubled the lead 10 minutes later.
Watkins made it 3-0 six minutes after the restart when Bailey’s shot was saved by former Brighton goalkeeper Mat Ryan.
Just five minutes later, McGinn added a fourth when he turned Bailey’s cross in at the near post.
AZ improved and pulled a goal back through Ibrahim Sadiq’s fine drive from the edge of the box with 25 minutes left.
Home defender David Moller-Wolfe said: “I can only speak for myself, but I’ve never played against such a good team.
“I felt when we tried to press them high, they just went in behind us and when we stayed they played in between us. That said, I don’t see why we can’t go to Villa Park in a few weeks and beat them.”