Football: Milosevic cast as the Villa villain
Nottingham Forest 0 Aston Villa 0 Attendance: 25,239
Sunday 23 February 1997
The contentious issue afterwards was the moment three minutes from time when Savo Milosevic, Villa's lumbering Serb, appeared to have put an embarrassing afternoon behind him by scoring the winning goal. Milosevic wheeled away in extravagant celebration, a left-foot shot hit without much power having surprisingly beaten Mark Crossley, only to be brought down to earth by the assistant referee's flag. Dwight Yorke, apparently, was the culprit.
Even the Forest bench thought the goal was good and Brian Little, the Villa manager, had to be at his most diplomatic. "We found it hard to believe Dwight was offside," he said. "The TV may show he was right but if the game has been shaped by a bad decision the players will be very disappointed."
They should be disappointed not to have had the points in the bag by then. It was largely through Milosevic's profligate finishing that they did not, the pounds 3.5m striker having missed two inviting chances, one after the other, in a first half dominated by his team.
A sliced clearance by Crossley, who later was to pull off some excellent saves, presented the Villa man with an open goal. But Milosevic headed well wide and missed the target by several feet again five minutes later when Yorke, having taken out two defenders with one brilliant turn, set him up.
From Forest there was much huffing and puffing but little end product. At a time of crisis, such as the one in which Forest find themselves at present, their player-manager Stuart Pearce, forced to remain in his tracksuit because of suspension, will have wanted to see rather more in the way of constructive effort.
Forest have found their plight in the Premiership reduced almost to a side issue lately; the takeover scramble, a European match-rigging scandal involving Anderlecht and the humiliation of losing to Chesterfield in the FA Cup have dominated thoughts. After three matches without a goal and only one point won, the threat of relegation is as real as ever, emphasising the importance of Monday's vote by shareholders, which could put the club in new ownership. Pearce believes that only with new funds before next month's transfer deadline will survival be a realistic proposition.
Forest surrendered possession all too easily yesterday but still Villa met with frustration in front of goal: Mark Draper rose to meet Alan Wright's cross only for Steve Chettle to head the ball clear from under the crossbar and Crossley pushed a long-range effort from Yorke wide of his left-hand post before Milosevic's disappointment.
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