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Villa's European adventure over before it begins


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Villa 2-1 Rapid Vienna (2-2 agg)

Aston Villa have been knocked out of the Europa League by Austrian side Rapid Vienna tonight in a game they really should have won by more.

We will not be in Friday's draw for the group stages of the Europa League after we went out 2-2 on the away goals rule.

Having enjoyed much of the possession in the game, Villa could never put Rapid out of sight and despite going two goals up, the threat of the away goal was always present and in the 76th minute our profligacy was punished.

Injury doubts John Carew & Ashley Young both started for Villa on the night. A strong 4-4-2 formation with Guzan in goal, Beye, Davies, Cuéllar & Shorey at the back. Young, Petrov, Delph & Milner in the midfield with the 2 big men Carew & Heskey up front were tasked with over-turning the 1 goal deficit from Vienna.

Villa started well and could have been up on 8 minutes when Milner glanced a shot across the goal from a lovely Carew flick on. The crowd were really behind the side, urging them on in the early stages. It was, however, very noticeable that Villa were nervous and they were over-relying on the hoof ball with the 2 target men both on the pitch.

With Villa playing it in the air early on, Rapid were happy to sit and counter. Four corners in a row on 26 minutes turned the heat up on Rapid and Villa were getting a foothold in the game. And it was during this pressure that Ashley Young won a penalty. He tried to cut inside the defender and once the attempted GBH on him failed, a 2nd defender managed to haul him over. But Young stepped up and took a poor penalty low and to the keepers right. An easy stop for Payer.

On 38 minutes, Young was once again brought down for a penalty. This time he handed the responsibility to the brilliant James Milner. Milner stepped up and whacked it high to the keeper's right. No chance of being saved and Villa were all square on aggregate.

After that, Rapid seemed to wake up and the close of the half had Rapid on top, getting a series of consecutive corners but none of them amounting to much

Half time - Villa 1-0 Vienna. A job half done.

Second half came and no changes were made. Rapid came out of the blocks all guns blazing and were unlucky not to score. Carlos Cuéllar with an excellent goal-line clearance. Villa off the hook for the first time on the night.

Heskey's first significant contribution on the night saw him come in from the right and lay a pass to Carew who deftly backflicked it goalward. Unfortunately it went just wide. A lovely bit of skill from the big men though. However, just 2 minutes later in the 52nd minute, Milner dispossesses a Vienna player on the right and puts a ball down the wing for Carew to run on to. Carew picks it up, cuts inside his fullback and scores a great goal at the keeper's near post with his left foot. Villa 2-0 up and now on their way. We still need another one though.

Four minutes later, Rapid change to a 4-4-2 and immediately they look more balanced and threatening. From that moment they never really looked back. Within a minute of the substitution they have a goal (correctly) disallowed for bundling Guzan into the goal. But it was a sign of things to come.

It is clear to me that all of Rapid's pressure is coming down our righthand side and Beye defensively fills me with the same butterflies that Peter Enckleman used to whenever he went near the ball.

However, Villa were still ploughing forward searching for the goal that would put this one to bed. On 68, Carew almost got in on the keeper, Young picked up the loose ball, crossed it in and Milner won a corner. From the corner, Young jinked between 2 players, raced into the box and launched a stinging shot that the keeper could only parry. Milner missed the resulting open goal. A big chance goes begging. But it was the Young of old. Great to see.

Two more corners for Villa and now we're well on top. But just when you're right on top, you tend to get a rude awakening. An astonishing double miss by Rapid. They race down their left and put in a cross which the first striker connects badly with. The loose ball is bicycle kicked which Guzan does well to save but the 4yd tap in was somehow missed by Jelavic and surely you thought this was going to be Villa's night.

Sadly, exactly one minute later in the 76th minute, the same player made amends. Making no mistake from inside the box and giving Guzan no chance. It was now 2-1 and Villa were heading out.

Delph went up the other end and brought a decent save out of Payer but Villa now clearly looked rattled. They were rushing their passes and moves were breaking down before they really got time to develop.

MON made his first substitution in the 82nd minute bringing the very poor Heskey off for Agbonlahor. Almost immediately after that, Curtis Davies injured his shuolder and had to race straight off down the tunnel to be replaced by Shane Lowry coming on in less than ideal circumstances.

In the 85th it was very nearly all square on the night. Guzan somehow managing to avert the ball from goal despite 2 strikers trying to get it in. He dived in front of the first effort and the rebound was put sky high. Had that gone in it was curtains. As it was, we still had a sniff.

Albrighton came on in the 86th for Delph and Boskovic came on for the goalscorer Jelavic.

Vienna understandable started to slow the game down and take an age to do anything. Payer, the keeper, was booked for time wasting and despite having 4 minutes of injury time the last few minutes of the match were frustratingly played out miles from the Vienna goal.

All in all, it was a good performance from Villa. James Milner was absolutely exceptional on the night. Ashley Young and John Carew were a class act. Petrov was industrious in the middle and the centre backs + Shorey did well with the surprisingly regular attacks they were confronting. Guzan had no chance for their goal and was very impressive for the rest. Delph did OK in the middle though he still seems a bit nervous to express himself. I thought Heskey was poor and Beye was a liability. Unfortunately, despite the good performances, statistics will tell you that you rarely overturn a first leg deficit and so it turned out to be.

A season where the fans were looking forward to the welcome distraction of European football again, midweek evening kickoffs and booking flights to fancy destinations is not going to be. Our Europe is over in August.

Well done to Rapid Vienna. They were huge underdogs but they stuck to the task and they did Austrian football a great credit and I wish them all the best in the group stages.

So I think I'll just sum up my emotion now in two words

Absolutely gutted.

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Agree, Villadevon, the Rapid fans were amazing and, tbh, put us to shame :oops: I thought Cuellar was outstanding and I like this guy more and more, now that he is getting a proper run in his preferred position. I can't make my mind up about Beye - agree BOF that at times he seems a liability, but other times he quite impresses me. There was one Vienna counter attack that caught us out a bit but it was Beye that managed to get back and make a vital interception. Young and Milner were excellent, and wasn't it good to see Big John back? :) Although Delph did well, I thought it a strange decision by MON to throw in a youngster rather than a more experienced head like Sidwell or NRC. Oh well, we can focus on top 4 now ;)

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Vienna fans were magic - fantastic noise, synchronised clapping, and a great drummer encouraging a very prolonged chant to a Vengaboys record. They did put us to shame really - I thought 22,000 was a shockingly poor turn out when the team really needed our support, and the tw@s that booed (even if ironically) at the end were just inedescribable. We won the game FFS.

Did not rate Heskey on the night, but I didn't see that much wrong with Beye to be fair BOF.

Carew showed his brilliance at a key time - demonstrating that it is true that he was schooled at Hogwarts.

Fulham next then - I hope there is no long lasting psychological damage to team morale going into the remainder of the season.

For me it feels like the season of promise is over - but that is purely a hangover from the night before. I am sure that come Sunday, we will be eager to push on yet again.


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Naturally I'm disappointed to go out of Europe for footballing reasons. But I am absolutely gutted personally as I've been saving (with hindsight, naively) my holiday at work to go to the away group games.

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I saw a match in two phases

the first phase saw us, without really ever hitting the heights we are capable of, putting ourselves ahead in the tie, and a second phase whihc saw us throw it away

For me the match turned on the Rapid manager switching to 4-4-2 and our manager leaving a clearly blown Petrov on. He got away with it at Anfield, as Sidwell and NRC were both able to pick up the slack more or less, but last night Delph was, understandably not going to be able to compensate for his senior partner fading so badly. I dont know why O'Neill refuses to make changes of this type to see out games, but it has cost us so many times now that it is making me very angry whenever it happens, and last night was yet another game that we just needed to quietly put to bed having done the hard part, but didnt. had the bench been full of kids, maybe you could understand, but sat on the bench, I had naievly thought for this very scenario, was the perfect solution in the shape of Reo-Coker. But hey, what do I know, I'm just a spotty faced kid who stays up all night playing championship manager.

The Rapid goal was coming, and had been coming for quite some time. I could see it, and yet Martin couldnt? All that Championship manager again?

And so we have gone out, and I think over the balance of the 180 minutes deservedly so. Had we grabbed a late winner then I'm sure Rapid would have pointed at a number of missed chances, incredible open goal misses really, and perhaps more pertinently at a second penalty award which was very, very soft as Ashley did his very best Eduardo impression to earn it.

We need to improve, I think we can all agree on that.

Perhaps worryingly, the area that needs most improvement, from my perspective, is in regard to our ability to make tactical changes to win games that are drifting away from us.

The manager may well have got us into Europe, but last night lets be perfectly clear, the manager cost us our place in the group stages by repeating an error he seems incapable of correcting. This is not the first time, and it wont be the last.

Maybe Martin should go play Championship Manager. I'm told Jimmy McHagen is a great buy.

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We need to improve, I think we can all agree on that.

We'll all disagree on how I suppose.

For me, the team selection was baffling. Using both Carew & Heskey was nonsensical and made us one-dimensional. If we'd had Agbonlahor then Delph would have had more than just Young as an outlet for his quick through balls. It would also have meant the centre backs were pulled this way and that. Or if we'd used NRC instead of the totally useless Heskey then we'd have had just as much threat up front but would have had more support for our centre backs and the RV attacks would'be been snuffed out.

For me we lost this on the team sheet and despite having plenty of chances, they had just as many if not more, and better ones at that.

It's just embarrassing really.

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