European Football: Manjarin sounds last post for frustrated Villa: Ron Atkinson loses his unbeaten home record in Europe as deserving Deportivo put up a labyrinthine defence

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The Independent Online
Aston Villa. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

Deportivo La Coruna. . . . . . . . . . . .1

(Deportivo win 2-1 on aggregate)

THE CITY of the Bull Ring proved greatly to the liking of Spain's equivalent of Norwich at Villa Park last night, the provincial upstarts of Deportivo undoing all the good work Aston Villa had put in to earn a 1-1 draw in La Coruna with a first- half winner by Javier Manjarin.

The 23-year-old Olympic football gold medallist not only curtailed Villa's Uefa Cup adventure at the second-round stage, but also deprived their manager Ron Atkinson of his unbeaten home record in Continental competition. In truth, Deportivo's victory was well deserved.

Despite the fact that this was only their second-ever European tie, the Spaniards' organisation showed why they stand joint second at home. Their defence, excellently marshalled by the Serbian sweeper, Miroslav Djukic, was labyrinthine, while their counter-attacking often left Villa looking ponderous.

Deportivo had arrived in Birmingham expecting to face the music, yet ended up calling the tune. The manic trumpeter who took to the tannoy in a bid to whip up the faithful was silent as the game moved towards its conclusion, although 'The Last Post' would have been an appropriate refrain for Villa.

The pre-match choice of music had also encapsulated a dilemma Villa never resolved. The sedate strains of 'Jerusalem' was followed by the staccato thrash of 'Eye of the Tiger', and Villa looked unsure whether to sit on their away goal or go for the jugular.

Only once, when Tony Daley sent in a low shot in the 80th minute, was Francisco Liano troubled. Otherwise, it was a typically frustrating farewell by Daley, who is due to join Udinese in Italy today.

The goal, after 37 minutes, epitomised the disparity in passing ability. A move initiated deep in defence by Djukic was carried on by a succession of crisp passes to the overlapping Nando. His cross from the left was met at the far post by Manjarin, whose header was merely helped over the line by Paul McGrath.

Atkinson's disappointment turned to anger with his pounds 15m team afterwards. 'We were a very poor advert for English football,' the Villa manager said after giving 'full credit' to Deportivo. 'My players should be feeling ashamed. I expected an electrifying evening, but it just didn't happen.'

His woes were compounded by the news that Steve Staunton must undergo surgery on a groin injury tomorrow, keeping him out of Villa's side for six weeks as well as the Republic of Ireland's crucial World Cup qualifier in Belfast later this month.

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Bosnich; Barrett, Teale, McGrath, Small; Daley, Richardson, Cowans (Houghton, 62), Townsend; Saunders, Atkinson.

Deportivo La Coruna (1-3-4-2): Liano; Djukic; Nando, Ribera, Voro; Mauro Silva, Donato, Fran, Lopez Recarte; Bebeto (Vales, 81), Manjarin (Pedro Riesco, 76).

Referee: J Weber (Ger).

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