In the final release of this look-back series, I’ve collated two-season’s together.
In both the 2009/10 and 2010/11 campaigns, Villa lost to the same opposition, at the same stage, in the same competition!
Villa were drawn with Rapid Wien (Austria) in the play-off rounds (qualifiers) of the new Europa League.
Play-off, First Leg
Rapid Wien 1-0 Aston Villa
20th August 2009, Gerhard Hanappi Stadion, 17,500
In an event that defined the tie for the next two years, Wien scored after just 17 seconds!
A long ball was poorly dealt with by the Villa defence before Habib Beye failed to block a cross.
Midway between the penalty spot and Brad Guzan’s goal-line, Nilica Jelavic powered home the resulting header and Villa fell behind.
Even when Gabriel Agbonlahor was introduced to partner Emile Heskey up-front, Villa couldn’t find a goal. O’Neill’s men took defeat back to B6, but a week later, the Villans had remained favourites in the tie.
Play-off, Second Leg
Aston Villa 2-1 Rapid Wien
27th August 2009, Villa Park, 22,563
A single, unanswered goal for the hosts would level the tie. After half an hour, the claret and blue faithful thought they’d found their moment.
Ashley Young was brought down in the penalty area and lined up the resulting spot-kick.
In a dreadful attempt, he hit the ball straight into the goalkeeper’s midriff, barely left of centre, and the chance was squandered.
For many, it felt like Deja Vu as Young was again hauled down in the box less than ten minutes later. Making no mistake, James Milner slotted home to place the Villans level on aggregate.
In the second half, Villa came out with the vigor and gusto expected. In the 52’ minute, John Carew powered an effort past the visiting goalkeeper at the near post to put Villa in control of the game.
However, needing only a goal themselves to take charge of the tie, Wien refused to be beaten.
As Villa edged closer to Europe, the Austrian’s shattered Villa hearts.
Guzan saved an initial effort late on but was unable to prevent the rebound from falling to Jelavic in the box again. The Croatian’s scuffed shot bounced agonizingly into the bottom right corner of the North Stand net.
The home team couldn’t ignite another comeback and fell to a crushing defeat.
Aston Villa had never faced Austrian opposition in Europe before 2009. However, after drawing Rapid Wien that year, and finishing sixth in the Premier League, Villa was granted a route into the Europa League. They would need to defeat a fellow European team in the play-off round to get there.
Up stepped Rapid Wien – again!
Almost a year to the day since last years first leg, Villa re-traced their footsteps and travelled back to the Austrian capital.
Play-off, First Leg
Rapid Wien 1-1 Aston Villa
19th August 2010, Gerhard Hanappi Stadion, 17,000
One man was not making the familiar journey. Martin O’Neill had resigned a few weeks before the beginning of the season, leaving Kevin MacDonald (a youth coach), temporarily in the hot seat.
In the 12’ minute, Barry Bannan was on hand to fire home Marc Albrighton’s cross. In what was a youthful selection from the interim boss – Jonathan Hogg and Eric Lichaj both made senior debuts.
It was courtesy of the team’s inexperience that Villa opened the scoring. Two academy graduates linking up left MacDonald beaming.
Sadly, not for long, and by the half-time interval, Villa had been pegged back. Atdhe Nuhiu (who Villa fans may remember from his time at Sheffield Wednesday) touched in a cross to evade the stricken Guzan.
An uneventful second half meant it was all square going into the return leg next week. Villa took with them a precious away goal.
Play-off, Second Leg
Aston Villa 2-3 Rapid Wien
26th August 2010, Villa Park, 29,980
Had supporters known this would be the club’s last tie in Europe for more than a decade, a sell-out Villa Park would’ve been expected.
In reality, many thought Villa could not only lose to Wien but lose to the team twice in 12 months!
Barely 20 minutes in, Villa took the lead as Agbonlahor capitalized at the end of a similar cross to that of Albrighton’s the week before.
If the first leg saw the match dwindle in the second half, the same couldn’t be said this time around.
Nuhiu scored a fine header in the 52’ minute to set up a fierce ending.
Club captain Stiliyan Petrov missed a penalty (cue 2009 flashbacks) however Heskey then put Villa ahead as he diverted a shot off his chest, into the bottom corner.
All was looking good for Villa until disaster struck inside the final ten minutes. A Wien side desperate to re-create last year’s feats proved too much for the hosts again.
Guzan initially failed to keep out Sonnleitner’s effort and minutes later the American didn’t deal with a low cross that was tapped in at the far post. Another Austrian victory humbled Villa.
That night, not only were the campaign’s Europa League dreams eradicated but decades of competing in European football had come to an end for the club.
From Villa Park nights against Inter Milan to the night Johan Cruyff graced the B6 turf; since Aston Villa reached the throne in 82′, the clubs always been footballing royalty.
After a long time in hibernation, the time is coming for us to conquer our kingdom again!
I hope you’ve enjoyed delving into the Villa past just as much as I have. Thank you for reading Escapades on the Continent – Villa in Europe. All articles can still be found on avillafan.com, under the sub-section ‘fans’.