Europa League: Rapid Vienna v Aston Villa full time report

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Europa League: Rapid Vienna v Aston Villa full time report
Rapid Vienna 1 Aston Villa 1
Barry Bannan’s first half away goal has given a much-changed Aston Villa a slight advantage in their Europa League playoff with Rapid Vienna.
Villa took the lead after just 12 minutes in Austria when Marc Albrighton’s low right wing cross picked out an unmarked Bannan in the six yard box, and the Scot had the simplest of tasks to slot home.
However, the English side were pegged back when Atdhe Nuhiu got the faintest of touches to a Steffen Hoffmann cross, and Villa keeper Brad Guzan was then forced to save well from Hoffmann’s free kick.
Emile Heskey and Nigel Reo-Coker went close for Villa in the second period, but caretaker manager Kevin MacDonald will be happy to take this result back to Villa Park.
It was a decent draw for Villa, who lost against this same opposition at this same stage of the Europa League last season.
Guzan made a terrific early stop to keep out a Nuhiu effort, before two of Villa’s youngsters combined to give their side the best possible start.
Albrighton did well down the right hand side, and his low cross into the centre was tapped home by an unmarked Bannan in the six yard box. Twenty-year-old Bannan – who had come close with a left footed effort earlier – has scored goals in loan spells at Derby County and Blackpool, but this was his first strike for Villa.
The English side were still on top, but Rapid’s Thomas Hinum soon saw a 20-yard effort deflect narrowly wide, and that appeared to inspire the hosts, who were soon level in a bizarre manner.
Hoffmann’s cross from the right was curling in towards goal, and there was some debate as to whether Nuhiu got the faintest of touches to it with his head, but the ball ended up in the bottom corner of a disappointed Guzan’s net, and the 21-year-old forward claimed it.
The American goalkeeper soon had to dive to his left to keep out a Hoffman free kick, before Villa youngster Eric Lichaj did well to prevent Hamdi Salihi heading his side in front.
Villa didn’t start the second period with the same zip that they took into the first – a fact underlined when Guzan was booked for timewasting in the opening five minutes of the half. Moments later, the ‘keeper was lucky to escape a red card when he clattered into Salihi.
Villa’s youngsters were their best performers, and the lively Albrighton soon tested Rapid custodian Raimund Hedl with a left footed strike, before Bannan drove wide from distance.
Guzan had to be alert to deny Veli Kavlak’s shot from distance, before Nuhiu smashed an effort over the bar, but just as Rapid appeared to be turning the s***w on the English side, Heskey shot wide from distance and Reo-Coker – Villa’s captain for the night – drove an effort into the side netting.
Back at the other end, Poor defending from Villa put Rapid substitute René Gartler clean through, but he could only shoot meekly at Guzan.
Villa now seemed happy with the draw, and began to bring on some more of their young players, including 19-year-old Andreas Weimann – who they signed from Rapid in 2007. However, he was soon to limp off with an ankle injury.
That was one of few low points for Villa and MacDonald though, and they will now be firm favourites to progress at Villa Park next week.



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