Two splendid Mark Bosnich saves had kept them in the race when Derby were still full of verve and vigour in the first half. While their Italian pair, Francesco Baiano and Stefano Eranio, were purring, chances came Derby's way. In the 22nd minute, they cleared the way for the substitute Ron Willems to thunder a shot which Bosnich parried brilliantly and, 11 minutes later, they again shredded the Villa defence to release Dean Sturridge. Gareth Southgate's challenge may have pushed him into a tighter shooting angle but it still took some superb goalkeeping to deny Sturridge the goal.
A second half of perpetual action saw Villa survive several scares when their defence was sliced open by the Italians. But Sturridge's inability to time his runs and fool Villa's old- fashioned, but still effective, offside trap meant that real scoring chances dried up.
Villa's persistence saw them winning an increasing share of possession in the last 15 minutes, although Yorke and Stan Collymore still showed little sign of troubling Igor Stimac and Jacob Laursen, who had held the Villa strikers on a tight rein.
The stalemate was broken with only a couple of minutes remaining, when Ugo Ehiogu took it into his head to surge upfield and set his strikers an example. The Derby defence unaccountably parted and the Villa defender hurled a 25-yard volley straight at Mart Poom, who had been the essence of reliability all afternoon. Poom could only parry it straight to Yorke, who pounced on the rebound and stroked home the game's only goal.
Derby could claim that the absence of Paulo Wanchope and Deon Burton on international duty had cost them the cutting edge that would have seen them through. The irony is that Yorke, freed from international duty by Trinidad and Tobago, was the man who finally decided the game.Reuse content