Aston Villa 0 Blackburn Rovers 2
By Simon Fudge
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
First half goals by Blackburn captain Garry Flitcroft and young striker Jon Stead sealed a key win for Graeme Souness's side in the Midlands.
In sunny but windy conditions at Villa Park, the home side had a very early chance but Darius Vassell's close-in strike was well saved by the legs of Blackburn keeper Brad Friedel before Juan Pablo Angel miss-hit another opportunity across Rovers' goal.
The visitors then had a chance of their own when Villa failed to clear their lines but Tugay squandered the opportunity from the edge of the box with a strike that was high and wide.
The match saw plenty of neat football in midfield but little threat of a goal until Blackburn created a breakthrough from nothing on 26 minutes.
A cross into the box from the right found Flitcroft, who took the ball down ever so well to beat Olof Mellberg and finished with a right foot strike to give Rovers a 1-0 lead.
Three minutes later, Villa boss David O'Leary was forced to take off Gareth Barry as he was not feeling well and he was replaced by Peter Whittingham.
Stead, meanwhile, was causing the Villa backline problems and it was the former the Huddersfield Town hit-man who would put his side 2-0 up ten minutes later.
A corner from the right was flicked to the tall marksman and he reacted instinctively with his right foot to finish past Villa keeper Thomas Sorensen for a 2-0 lead.
Rovers should have made it three but Martin Andresen missed a major chance from a few yards out when he ballooned his effort over the bar.
Things were made worse for O'Leary's men as Nolberto Solano suddenly pulled up with a suspected hamstring problem when in mid-stride with the ball and the Peruvian had to be replaced at the start of the second half by youngster Luke Moore.
After the break, Villa tried to get back into the match but substitute Whittingham's quick turn and shot in front of Blackburn's goal was well blocked by Friedel.
In fact, Andy Cole nearly extended Blackburn's lead after getting by Sorensen but his shoot went well wide with a Villa defender bearing down on him.
Villa had plenty of possession in the second period but had nothing more than half chances in front of Friedel, as Rovers' backline held firm throughout for an important victory.