By Christopher Boulay
Game one without James Milner has finished. Luckily it was only 1-1, with an away goal in Villa’s pocket.
The shell of a side that was selected by interim manager Kevin MacDonald, certainly struggled on the road against scrappy Rapid Wien. MacDonald’s side was without Ashley Young, Carlos Cuellar, Gabriel Agbonlahor and d newly-signed Steven Ireland, to name a few.
It started well for Villa (photo), getting an early goal from Scotland U-21 midfielder Barry Bannan. The club really controlled the play early, and looked to roll after Bannan nudged the ball past Wien goalkeeper Raimund Hedl.
But an answer for the Austrian side was struck only minutes later. Atdhe Nuhiu’s head grazed a Stefan Hoffman cross and sent it past Brad Guzan, but to be honest, it probably would have gone in with or without Nuhiu’s slight intervention. A very poor goal for Villa to concede, and it really could come back to bite them.
Villa really looked poor for the remainder of the match. They were able to hang on to the draw, which the away goal could prove vital heading back to Villa Park, but MacDonald needs to field a stronger side next leg. It is understandable to want to get youngsters out onto the pitch early in competitions, so they can gain the experience; but it was a bit too close for comfort today.
MacDonald now has one win and one draw under his belt in the post-Martin O’Neill days. This club is much better than Rapid, and MacDonald should strengthen his resume with his club advancing out of this round.
And what should have been a happy time for one of the club’s youngsters turned into a bit of a nightmare.
What a heartbreaking performance from Andreas Weimann. He gets the opportunity to come on as a substitute against his boyhood club; the club he started with; and he gets injured only seven minutes in, just to be subbed out and stretchered off. That’s rough. Hopefully it’s a minor knock, and Weimann will be back on a pitch soon.
Next up for Aston Villa is a trip to St. James Park on Sunday to play Newcastle. This is a match that if a strong squad is fielded, it should be an easy three points. We will see if Newcastle will put up a better fight than they did against United on Monday. That was certainly awful.