Aston Villa got their second win in two games in the Uefa Cup as they defended stoically to secure a 1-0 victory over Slavia Prague.
Martin O'Neill made six changes to the side that lost to Newcastle on Monday. Among the substitutes were star man Gareth Barry and fellow regular starters Nigel Reo-Coker and Martin Laursen.
The three attacking players John Carew, Gabriel Agbonlahor, and Ashley Young were allowed to take their good league form into the game.
The game started in a bright fashion with both teams trying for it from the word go. It was Slavia, however, who managed to get going first and the Villa players were made to chase the ball as Slavia passed it around quick and smoothly.
The first chance fell to the Brummies however, as Sidwell battled with Brabec in the Slavia area and the ball dropped to Carew, loitering behind him, but the big Norwegian scuffed his shot wide.
Slavia immediately responded and created a chance of their own. A vicious shot from the edge of the area by Tavares brought a fine stop out of Guzan, diving to his right to parry the ball away to safety with Smicer lurking ominously.
This prompted the game to open up and Villa simply went up the other end and had a shot at goal.
The first clear-cut chance arrived in the 19th minute though. Sidwell launched a long free-kick deep into the Slavia box, which Craig Gardner met crisply with a low volley, but it was straight at the 'keeper, Vaniak who saved.
Then in the 26th minute the defining moment arrived. Sidwell, again involved, saw his ambitious shot from the edge of the area deflect off John Carew and past the helpless Vaniak after a crisp one-two with Ashley Young.
Carew was credited with the goal.
Slavia were rattled and Villa gained momentum.
Moments later, Ashley Young crashed the far post of Vaniak's goal with a beautifully curling free-kick from the left of the Slavia area—superb effort from Young, who looked to be enjoying the day.
Villa saw another chance go begging when Carew missed a sitter. Sidwell played him in, but the striker's toe-poke was tame and Vaniak saves.
A lapse in concentration saw Slavia forge another chance. A point-blank save was needed from Brad Guzan as Thomas Necid strode into the Villa box and shot low to the 'keeper's left—a superb stop from the American 'keeper.
The second half, Slavia upped the tempo but to no avail. The young Villa stars showed real composure and discipline to see the game home. A fine away win for the Premier League side and they now top the group with six points from the first two games.
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