Football: Villa inspired by ambition

Sheffield Wednesday 1 Aston Villa 3
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Sheffield Wednesday 1 Aston Villa 3

THOSE doubtful about the merits of changing managers mid-season should look at these two clubs.

When Ron Atkinson took over in November, Wednesday were bottom, but they began this game with their Premiership place secured by last weekend's victory at Everton.

Likewise, when John Gregory took over in February, Aston Villa were worrying about relegation. Yet they began this match knowing a victory would enhance their European hopes for next season.

And that was the difference between the two teams. Wednesday's job was done while Villa, with work unfinished, controlled the game.

After a dreadful opening, Villa scored twice in five minutes and sealed the points with Julian Joachim's strike. With Stan Collymore and Savo Milosevic on the bench all game, Gregory was looking forward to his attacking options next season.

"Joachim has come on a lot," he said. "He's now a major threat and people are very, very aware of him in the Premiership."

Physical intervention against the raids of Joachim and his colleagues was remarkably rare - at least from the Wednesday players. As Atkinson said of the rotund idiot who leapt from the crowd and swung a punch at a linesman: "At least he cared."

Attempting to draw some comfort, the Wednesday manager focused on the promising debut of Francesco Sanetti."

The 19-year old Italian, who had waited six weeks for clearance to play, saved Wednesday's best for last when he drifted into the area and effortlessly curled the ball into the net, much like Dennis Bergkamp.

"He made something of the afternoon worthwhile," said Atkinson, suggesting that having done the job his short-term contract demanded he, too, was thinking of next season.

Goals: Yorke (21) (0-1); Hendrie (25) (0-2); Joachim (50) (0-3); Sanetti (89) (1-3).

Sheffield Wednesday (3-5-2): Pressman; Thome (Whittingham, 35), Walker, Stefanovic; Barrett (Magilton, 72), Atherton, Hyde, Pembridge (Sanetti, 46), Hinchcliffe; Carbone, Di Canio. Substitutes not used: Briscoe, Clarke (gk).

Aston Villa (3-5-2): Oakes; Grayson, Southgate, Ehiogu; Nelson, Taylor (Barry, 49), Draper, Hendrie (Byfield, 65), Wright; Joachim, Yorke. Substitutes not used: Milosevic, Collymore, Rachel (gk)

Referee: M Bodenham (East Looe)

Bookings: Wednesday: Stefanovic. Villa: Draper.

Man of the match: Joachim (Villa).

Attendance: 34,177.