Young seals perfect start for Houllier

Aston Villa 3 Blackburn Rovers 1
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The Independent Football

Gerard Houllier has already pleaded for patience and needed it in abundance last night as Emile Heskey and Ashley Young's late contributions prevented their new manager from an uncomfortable welcome to Villa Park.

In front of the lowest crowd for well over four years, the air of negativity that has greeted Houllier's appointment dissipated a little after a late second-half fightback that his Blackburn counterpart, Sam Allardyce, cannot possibly have envisaged.

The 63-year-old appeared on course for a disastrous first night in charge after a fellow Frenchman, Gaël Givet, had given Blackburn a glimmer of hope in their attempt to exact revenge for last season's defeat in the semi-final.

But his decision to introduce Heskey swung the game and ensured his mission to win silverware in his first campaign remains alive. Heskey equalised with his first touch and then Young delivered two quality finishes.

Houllier said: "With Emile it is a matter of confidence. He knows I like him and the game now is more about 13 players than 11 or 12. The attitude of the substitutes is very important and what I liked about the substitutes today is they changed the game and showed desire. Emile came on with that attitude and he can repeat that. But it's just not about Emile, the team played well."

Houllier has revealed that the Villa owner, Randy Lerner, still harbours hopes of silverware, so it was a peculiar decision for the new manager to make eight changes to the team that drew with Bolton. Out of the Europa League, and with Houllier insistent the club should be aiming for between seventh and 12th in the Premier League, his team selection in his first official game was indeed a surprise.

Villa were second best for large portions of the first half, with Gabriel Agbonlahor's withdrawal on the half-hour, with a suspected recurrence of a calf injury, only adding to the subdued atmosphere around Villa Park. The air of tension only increased 11 minutes before half-time when Blackburn took a deserved lead, Givet arrowing an excellent volley through a crowded penalty area.

But Heskey made a quite stunning entrance as a substitute. The forward produced a deadly finish that has been seldom seen since his arrival 18 months ago. And Young's clever header, from Nathan Delfouneso's perfect cross, turned the game in Villa's favour before the England international swept home a third.

* Wigan staged a late fightback to snatch a place in the fourth round at the expense of Preston. Jordi Gomez and Charles N'Zogbia scored in the closing three minutes as the Premier League side won 2-1 at the DW Stadium.

Aston Villa 4-4-2: Guzan; Lichaj, Clark, Cuellar, Warnock; Bannan, Reo-Coker, Sidwell, A Young; Carew (Heskey, 59), Agbonlahor (Delfouneso, 32). Substitutes not used Friedel (gk), Davies, Salifou, Beye, Osbourne.

Blackburn 4-5-1: Bunn; Chimbonda, Nelsen (Samba, 67), Givet, Olsson; Emerton, Nzonzi, Jones, Hoilett, Pedersen; Benjani (M Diouf, 63). Substitutes not used Fielding (gk), Kalinic, E Diouf, Linganzi, Morris.

Man of the match E Heskey.

Referee C Foy (Merseyside).

Attendance 18,753.

Match rating 4/10.