Villa through despite loss
Aston Villa qualified for the last 32 of the Uefa Cup despite slumping to a 2-1 defeat to Zilina.
Last Updated: 04/12/08 10:36pm
Aston Villa qualified for the last 32 of the Uefa Cup despite slumping to an embarrassing 2-1 defeat to MSK Zilina at Villa Park.
The visitors took the lead in the 16th minute with a freak goal from Vladimir Leitner, who crossed from the left with Zat Knight appearing to duck under the ball before it crept in past Brad Guzan.
Zilina then doubled the lead three minutes later but there was nothing fluky about this goal. It came via a great passing move with Adauto feeding Peter Pekarik down the right who cut in a clever ball for Peter Styvar to coolly slot home.
Villa reduced the arrears in the 28th minute when 17-year-old Nathan Delfouneso, on his full debut for the hosts, volleyed home from the edge of the box after a chest down from Marlon Harewood.
In the second period, Villa pressed for an equaliser and, while the visitors had goalscorer Leitner sent off for a second bookable offence in the 79th minute, they held on for a famous win.
Despite the defeat, Martin O'Neill's side have qualified for the knock-out stages after Hamburg's 2-0 victory at Slavia Prague.
Villa had won their previous two group games and O'Neill made eight changes from the side that drew with Fulham on Saturday.
The game got off to a quiet start in front of a crowd of more than 28,000 although there was plenty of enthusiasm evident from Villa striker Delfouneso.
He won the first corner of the game after pressing Benjamin Vomacka, although Ashley Young's centre was headed clear by Leitner.
But a second corner from the former Watford player almost led to Villa taking the lead after 11 minutes.
Young's cross was met by central defender Knight and his downward header was tipped over the crossbar by Zilina goalkeeper Dusan Pernis.
At the other end a back pass from Carlos Cuellar put Brad Guzan under pressure and he was forced to hack the ball into the stands when challenged by Styvar.
And after 16 minutes Villa were stunned when a freak goal from Leitner put Zilina in front.
Leitner whipped in a cross from the left flank after cutting back inside and Knight appeared to duck under the ball before it skidded off the surface and past the dive of Guzan.
Three minutes later the Villa defence was pulled apart again as Styvar doubled Zilina's lead.
Adauto made the initial surge forward and played in Pekarik, who got in behind Luke Young before squaring across goal for Styvar to sidefoot past Guzan.
Ashley Young had the chance to test the visitors with a free-kick 20 yards out but his curling effort flew straight into the arms of Pernis.
But Delfouneso brought Villa back into the game with a stunning first senior goal.
Nigel Reo-Coker floated the ball up to Harewood on the edge of the box and he chested it down for Delfouneso who crashed a low left-footed volley past the dive of Pernis.
It was the just the tonic Villa needed after a lethargic start to the game, but midfielder Isaiah Osbourne then became the first player to be booked after 29 minutes for a challenge on Adauto.
Zilina were still a threat and Zdeno Strba found himself with a free run into the Villa box after racing onto a Pekarik pass, but his control let him down.
Delfouneso found himself in a good position on the left-hand side of the Zilina box but was caught in two minds and his cross-cum-shot did not test Pernis.
Ashley Young was having an off night to date with his free-kicks and another attempt from 25 yards out curled high over the crossbar.
Pekarik made a crucial interception inside his own area to cut out a low Harewood cross just as Ashley Young was lining up a shot.
Zilina were the first to threaten at the start of the second half with Guzan tipping over a 30-yard drive from Adauto.
Ashley Young went for glory with an ambitious attempt from 30 yards out but he was never in control of the shot which flew into the Holte End.
The former Watford player was closer with a low drive from nearer the target which flashed only a couple of yards wide.
Gardner won a free-kick in a dangerous position on the edge of the box after being brought down by Josef Piacek but Ashley Young failed to lift his attempt over the wall.
Leitner became the first Zilina player to be booked for tugging at the shirt of Ashley Young. This time he left the free-kick to Gardner but again the wall did its job.
Guzan had to go down to his left to keep out Jez's low drive before O'Neill made his first substitution, bringing on James Milner for the ineffective Osbourne after 63 minutes.
Villa sparked into life and Harewood was off target with a header from a centre by Ashley Young, who then himself had a low shot easily dealt with by Pernis.
Gareth Barry was introduced after 69 minutes in place of Moustapha Salifou, who had also failed to make much of an impression.
Ashley Young was trying his best to rescue the game for Villa and Mario Pecalka was booked for bringing him down.
Pernis did well to block a close-range attempt by Gardner following a Barry free-kick.
O'Neill made his final switch to bring on Gabriel Agbonlahor in place of Delfouneso with 15 minutes remaining.
Zilina were reduced to 10 men after 79 minutes when Leitner fouled Agbonlahor and was sent off for a second bookable offence.
In injury-time Gardner headed against the woodwork from a Reo-Coker centre.