Aston Villa 3
Yorke 21, Hendrie 25, Joachim 50
WHILE Sheffield Eagles were flying high at Wembley the Owls were winged and lifeless at Hillsborough in a match which might have enhanced Villa's European chances but did nothing for the reputation of the English game.
Not only was the football dreadful but in the 65th minute, a shaven-headed, pot-bellied man from the grandstand threw a wild punch at a linesman. The linesman ducked and the thug turned his foul-mouthed attention to the Villa manager, John Gregory, five yards away. Gregory stood impassively as the stewards moved in.
"He blamed me for him running on the pitch because I'd been jumping up and down," said Gregory afterwards. Ron Atkinson made light of the incident saying: "If only some of my side had shown that spirit. I was waiting to see what number he had on his back so I could put him on."
So woeful were Wednesday, showing neither guts nor gumption, that they didn't manage a shot until the 63rd minute. By then they were three behind - and it should have been five. After an appalling opening, Villa raised their game when Fernando Nelson crudely barged Andy Hinchcliffe off the ball. Nelson crossed and Dwight Yorke, suspiciously on-side, had the simplest of chances. Five minutes later, Yorke dispossessed Emerson Thome on the edge of the area and Julian Joachim slipped in Lee Hendrie who picked his spot past Kevin Pressman.
It wasn't until the 50th minute that Villa extended their lead. The goal was created by their 17-year-old substitute, Gareth Barry, England's Under-18 captain, and finished by Joachim who would have been offside had Wednesday's statues stirred their stumps.
Wednesday also had a promising young sub, the 19-year-old Francesco Sanetti from Genoa, making his debut. His half-time introduction perked up the home side and, in the last minute, he bamboozled Alan Wright before curling a delightful shot over the Villa keeper, Michael Oakes, and into the net.