Football / Coca-Cola Cup: Nolan opens Tranmere's path to final
Thursday 17 February 1994
Aston Villa. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1
DALIAN ATKINSON added insult to injury time by poaching a potentially priceless goal for Aston Villa in the dying seconds of a Coca-Cola Cup semi-final first leg dominated by Tranmere at Prenton Park last night.
The First Division's fifth- placed side would have settled beforehand for a two-goal lead to take to Villa Park, and had probably exceeded their wildest expectations when John Aldridge apparently put the tie beyond Villa's reach by adding to goals by Ian Nolan and Mark Hughes in the closing stages. So Tranmere's disappointment was acute when Atkinson volleyed the away goal which will count double in the event of the aggregate score being level after extra time a week on Sunday.
Once they have got over the timing of Villa's riposte, however, Tranmere can be excused if their thoughts stray once more to the towers and the glory. The Wirral to Wembley route is well worn, John King's men having travelled it four times in as many years. Villa, who face another awkward game at Bolton in the FA Cup on Sunday, will have to produce a vast improvement in order to reach their first Wembley final since 1977.
Ron Atkinson insisted his players had not underestimated Tranmere, especially after the so-called Black Wednesday endured by Premiership clubs in the FA Cup last week. 'Only time will tell whether Dalian's goal does prove to be crucial,' the Villa manager said. 'What is certain is that five seconds earlier we were looking buried.
'It will take a superhuman effort on our behalf to turn that around. The important thing is that the boys believe they can do it, though if we play like that we haven't got a chance.'
All the composure that had earned Villa a 100 per cent record in six away cup fixtures was undermined in the space of 19 first-half minutes, during which Tranmere's pounds 1m hotchpotch twice breached their pounds 12m opponents' rearguard. Pat Nevin, the Scottish international winger, was their chief tormentor although the goals came from a less likely source.
The first arrived in only the fifth minute, when a Nevin pass deflected off a defender into the path of the overlapping Nolan. The right-back's angled drive from level with the penalty spot entered the net off the underside of the bar - his first goal this season and only the second of his career.
Villa, had not unduly troubled a Tranmere defence depleted by two suspensions before the hosts doubled their advantage. Nevin again provided an 'assist', his corner being only half-cleared to the edge of the penalty area where Hughes was lurking. The sweeper's lob into the top right corner of Mark Bosnich's goal was worthy of his Manchester United namesake, and was also his first goal in 17 months.
Villa's desire to press forward cost them dearly 12 minutes from time. Kenny Irons sent Aldridge clear and as Villa looked vainly for an offside flag, the veteran striker played a one-two with the near post before stroking his 15th goal of the season.
Tranmere's night appeared complete. When their defence failed to clear a free-kick dubiously awarded against Irons and headed on by Tony Daley, Dalian Atkinson demonstrated ruthlessly that it was not.
Tranmere Rovers (1-4-3-2): Nixon; Hughes; Nolan, McGreal, Garnett, Brannan; Nevin, O'Brien, Irons; Aldridge, Malkin. Substitutes not used: Morrissey, Mungall, Coyne (gk).
Aston Villa (4-4-2): Bosnich; Cox, Barratt, McGrath, Staunton (Froggatt, 75); Houghton, Richardson, Townsend, Daley; Atkinson, Saunders. Substitutes not used: Ehiogu, Spink (gk).
Referee: R Milford (Bristol).
Latest in Sport
Arsenal are so close to winning the Premier League, but sometimes Arsene Wenger holds them back, says Jamie Carragher
Arsenal transfer news: Tomas Rosicky and Mathieu Flamini set for showdown summer talks over future
David Beckham reveals secret of his success: I 'stayed in to watch Match of the Day' rather than go out with friends on a Saturday night
Real Madrid vs Juventus preview: Juventus know they must attack to match past European glory
Two new members of Floyd Mayweather's The Money Team blag their way into entourage to celebrate to celebrate with Justin Bieber
- 2 Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to join show
- 3 General Election 2015: 14-year-old boy asks Nick Clegg – 'can you kill Katie Hopkins?'
- 4 University student in court for allegedly covering housemates' food in window cleaner and spit
In defence of liberal democracy
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...
£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...
£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...