Villa put up shutters
A Magnificent defensive display enabled Aston Villa to emerge battered but unbruised from Celta Vigo last night. John Gregory's side refused to buckle under a welter of second-half attacks and held on to take a narrow lead into the return leg.
Villa survived several hairy moments in the closing minutes, but a fine save by Michael Oakes and typically resilient defending ensured that Julian Joachim's 15th-minute goal proved the winner for their depleted side.
"I'm very proud of the way they performed in the second half in particular," Gregory said. "It's really what we have come to expect from them. We lacked a little bit going forward in the second half and were a bit inhibited because the lead was so precious." Villa made the brighter start and Joachim, playing only because Paul Merson was ineligible, narrowly failed to pick out Stan Collymore with a far-post cross before the pair combined to give Villa the lead and a precious away goal in the 15th minute.
Collymore, collecting a pass inside his own half, burst between two defenders and released Joachim to beat the goalkeeper Richard Dutruel with a firm right-foot shot.
Although Vigo enjoyed copious possession they offered little to worry a typically resolute Villa side until Gareth Southgate fouled the Bulgarian striker Luboslav Penev on the edge of the area in the 26th minute. Alexsandr Mostovoi's free-kick flew narrowly wide. The Russian was the source of Vigo's next dangerous move, eluding Gareth Barry before shooting wildly.
Villa seemed fortunate not to concede a penalty shortly before half-time. Ugo Ehiogu handled the ball on the ground, albeit accidentally, but the Turkish referee waved away Vigo's appeals.
Vigo pinned Villa inside their own area for long periods after half-time. Mostovoi twice shot wide and to add to Villa's worries, Mark Draper was shown the yellow card for time-wasting, adding to an earlier booking for Collymore.
Shortly afterwards Gareth Southgate made a crucial interception from Michel's cross as substitute Juan Sanchez closed in.
Celta Vigo: Dutruel, Michel, Cacares, Mazinho, Karpin (Cadete 82), Revivo (Sanchez 46), Penev, Djorovic, Mostovoi, Josema (Tomas 62), Makelele. Subs Not Used: Berges, Vales, Gudel, Porto.
Aston Villa: Oakes, Charles, Wright, Southgate, Ehiogu, Draper, Collymore, Joachim, Barry, Hendrie, Scimeca. Subs Not Used: Grayson, Ferraresi, Vassell, Hughes, Rachel. Booked: Collymore, Draper. Goal: Joachim 15.
Referee: Oguz Sarvan (Turkey).