Villa go top with Prague win
Villa top Group F after terrific win in Prague
By Carla Hilton. Last Updated: 06/11/08 10:55pm
Aston Villa have ended Slavia Prague's 14-match unbeaten run with a hard-fought 1-0 win in the Czech Republic.
John Carew scored the only goal for Villa who held off a late surge from the home side to land their second win in the group stages.
The visitors were tested to the full in the second-half but defended well to take all three-points against the Czech champions.
It was a strong performance by Martin O'Neill's side who go top of group F after two games.
Villa boss O'Neill made six changes from the side beaten 2-0 at Newcastle on Monday as the midlanders played their second of three games in seven days.
Carew's goal, after 26 minutes, came from a shot by one of the players brought in, Steve Sidwell - but owed a lot to luck as the midfielder's effort hit the Norwegian and rolled into the far corner.
It was the least Villa deserved for their first-half performance, Slavia goalkeeper Martin Vaniak pulling off fine saves from Carew and Craig Gardner - while Ashley Young hit the post.
Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan, making only his second appearance for the club, played his part too - denying Jaroslav Cerny and Marek Jarolim with smart saves.
The second half was a lot more testing for the visitors, Guzan proving more than an able deputy for Brad Friedel - while on the two occasions he was beaten, the ball flew agonisingly wide.
Slavia settled well after a slightly nervy start, and Cerny forced the first meaningful save out of Guzan - who then caught the follow-up from danger man Tomas Necid.
With 20 minutes gone, Gardner missed a glorious chance to become the first player to score a European goal at Eden Stadion- sweeping Sidwell's free-kick straight at Vaniak from six yards out. Instead, that honour went to Carew.
Young was inches away from making it two moments later when his free-kick from the left smacked the far post, with Vaniak rooted to the spot.
Villa were well on top, and Gardner was denied by Vaniak - who dived at the midfielder's feet. The ball broke to Carew, but Gardner was deemed to have fouled the goalkeeper and was shown a yellow card.
Vaniak then produced a fine save from Carew - set up by Young, who was having a productive evening down the left.
Carew was also finding lots of space and perhaps should have done better than shoot straight at Vaniak after again being played through.
Slavia served notice they were still a threat - Jarolim drawing a fine one-handed stop from Guzan - but the hosts were dealt a blow just before half-time when former Liverpool midfielder Vladimir Smicer was forced off with a calf injury.
Young began the second half as he had finished the first, by finding acres of space at the far post, but he chose to cut the ball back rather than go for goal - and the opportunity was lost.
A mix-up between Zat Knight and Carlos Cuellar - playing at right-back - gifted Slavia a corner, and the hosts almost made Villa pay. But captain Erich Brabec shot wide from close range.
The noisy home fans erupted moments later as Necid slid the ball into the net, but the flag had already been raised for offside.
Slavia certainly had the bit between their teeth as they fought to avoid a first defeat at Eden, and Villa were now struggling to keep hold of the ball.
Matej Krajcik finished off a fine move from the hosts by firing across goal and just past the far post, before Sidwell became the second Villa player to be cautioned for a rash foul on substitute Tijani Belaid.
Cerny should have made it 1-1 in the 65th minute, but Guzan pulled off another impressive save to deny the midfielder after he had been played clean through.
Chances were coming thick and fast for Slavia now, and Necid headed just past the far post from Cerny's excellent deep cross - with Guzan beaten.
Necid, who already has nine goals this season, rose well again late on. But this time, his header from substitute Dusan Svento's cross was straight at Guzan - and Villa somehow held on to make it six points from two games in Group F.
|Slavia Prague||Team Statistics||Aston Villa|
|0||1st Half Goals||1|
|8||Shots on Target||5|
|6||Shots off Target||6|
Thu 6th Nov - Group D
Spartak Mos1 - 2Udinese
Tottenham4 - 0Din Zagreb
Thu 6th Nov - Group C
Stuttgart2 - 0Partizan
S Liege1 - 0Sevilla
Thu 6th Nov - Group B
Metalist0 - 0Hertha
Benfica0 - 2Galatasaray
Thu 6th Nov - Group H
Lech Poznan2 - 2Nancy
Feyenoord1 - 3CSKA Mosc
Thu 6th Nov - Group E
Wolfsburg5 - 1Heerenveen
AC Milan1 - 0Braga
Thu 6th Nov - Group A
R Santandr1 - 1Schalke
Man City3 - 2Twente
Thu 6th Nov - Group G
St Etienne3 - 0Rosenborg
Valencia1 - 1FC Cop'hagen
Thu 6th Nov - Group F
Slavia Prague0 - 1A Villa
Ajax1 - 0Zilina
Europa League Group A
Europa League Group B
Europa League Group C
Europa League Group D
|2||Red Bull Salzburg||2||4|
|4||FC Astra Ploiesti||2||0|
Europa League Group E
Europa League Group F
Europa League Group G
Europa League Group H
Europa League Group I
|3||BSC Young Boys Bern||2||3|
|4||SK Slovan Bratislava||2||0|
Europa League Group J
|2||FC Steaua Bucuresti||2||3|
Europa League Group K
Europa League Group L