Arsenal fans sour Aston Villa's celebrations


ANGRY Arsenal fans soured Aston Villa's League Cup celebrations last night after their own season shunted into the sidings. They poured over the Villa Park hoardings and tried to clash with jubilant midlanders on the pitch as Brian Little's men attempted a lap of honour.

Stewards and police soon brought order and subdued the dramatic ending to a nerve wracked semi final.

Bruce Rioch's hopes of beginning a new era for the Gunners with a trophy in his first season rested on this second leg. But he chose to stifle the life out of a tie. And in the end he paid the penalty for his caution, going out on the away goals rule after extra time, Dwight Yorke's two goal rescue mission down in London proving priceless.

Now Brian seeks a double, hoping to lift the League Cup as a manager that he won as a player with the Villa 19 years ago.

Though Villa were cramped and anxious, their efficiency deservedly earned them their second final in three seasons, and a record equalling seventh in the competition.

Rioch drafted in Arsenal's 1993 Wembley hero Stephen Morrow for his first start since April and recalled Ray Parlour in a new 3-5-2 formation.

It turned the centre of the pitch into a crowded battle zone which soon claimed Ian Taylor, the replacement for Tommy Johnson limping away after minutes to be replaced by Paul McGrath in a reshuffle that pushed McGrath into midfield.

It hardly disturbed Villa's equilibrium in a system that has been well bedded down this season. But though Dennis Bergkamp found space at a premium, the Dutch star of the first leg still floated dangerously.

He took on Staunton and fired wide, while hesitation by Gary Charles let in Nigel Winterburn at the back post to hook the ball over for Paul Merson, whose measured header brought a full stretch save by Mark Bosnich from underneath his crossbar.

But Villa had the better chances, Mark Draper's mazy sixth minute run carrying him through to stretch David Seaman, who then tipped over a Dwight Yorke free kick.

Yorke looked certain to score the 10th in the 27th minute when he broke clear of Andy Linighan 40 yards out. But the big defender doggedly trailed him as he bore down on Seaman and curled a long leg round to knock the ball off his toe deep in the penalty area.

Yorke, who went close from an inswinging Staunton free kick, was odds on to score in the final minute of the first half when Milosevic and Townsend conspired to cross from the left and the striker dived in ahead of Martin Keown. But the ball looped off his head for Seaman to save on the line.

Ugo Ehiogu lived dangerously in trying to contain Ian Wright, the Arsenal striker honestly refusing the option to go down under a heavy arm across his back.

But it took a superb Bosnich save from Merson's diving header, clawing the ball out with his right hand as Dixon swung the ball over from the right in the 59th minute, to keep Villa level.

Villa sent on Ricardo Scimeca for Staunton after 70 minutes as the 39,334 crowd began to get impatient, and the substitute was booked within two minutes for a foul on Bergkamp.

Winterburn shaved the outside of Bosnich's post with a 20 yard volley in the 79th minute as the game marched on towards extra time.

Parlour, already booked, was lucky not to get a second yellow card for heavy fouls on Scimeca and Milosevic but Morrow was booked for a similar foul on the Serb striker.

Yorke did well to set up a chance for Milosevic in the 87th minute but he ballooned it into the heavens and we had our extra half hour. And the luckless striker fumbled set ups from Scimeca and Ehiogu in the added 30 minutes, while Paul McGrath hit the sidenetting.

But with their two away goals' in the bag, Villa were in the driving seat and it was Arsenal who had to score. They rarely threatened and the arrival of Platt for Winterburn in the 103rd minute made little difference.

. Andreas Moller struck in the 13th and 65th minutes to give Germany a 2-1 victory over Portugal in a friendly in Oporto last night. Antonio Folha grabbed Portugal's goal after 51 minutes.

German coach Berti Vogt's said he was pleased with his team's performance. "They played well and deserved to win. I think Portugal were a bit below par." Portugal and Germany are in the same group or the 1998 World Cup qualifiers.

. France beat Greece 3-1 in a friendly in Nimes last night with goals from Patrice Loko (two) and Zinedine Zidane. Alekos Alexandris had put Greece ahead.