James error hands Celta victory

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The Independent Football

A last-minute mistake by the Aston Villa goalkeeper David James gave Celta Vigo a slim advantage after the first leg of the Intertoto Cup semi-final here last night.

A last-minute mistake by the Aston Villa goalkeeper David James gave Celta Vigo a slim advantage after the first leg of the Intertoto Cup semi-final here last night.

James had played well against a side who dominated possession, but with the Premiership side looking set to escape with a valuable goalless draw to take to Villa Park next Wednesday, he flapped at a cross from Juan Velasco and the South African Benni McCarthy steered the ball home. It was cruel luck on James and Villa who had five players booked in a gritty performance.

John Gregory's side were forced on to the back foot for long spells but Dion Dublin should have given them the lead 10 minutes from time but steered a header from Alan Thompson's cross just wide.

Celta continually stretched Villa, who were fielding a weakened side with Gareth Southgate and Ugo Ehiogu ruled out with injuries and Paul Merson and Mark Delaney both suspended. Villa's problems increased in the 19th minute when their new signing Luc Nilis limped off to be replaced by Darius Vassell.

Celta, who finished seventh last season in the Spanish league, carved out a good opening in the 14th minute when Tomas played the ball into the area but Gareth Barry deflected the ball to safety. James then hurled himself to turn a shot from Giovanella on to the bar three minutes later.

Villa were being forced to defend in depth and Doriva saw a 25-yard shot just clear the bar. Then a moment of carelessness from Thompson gave Celta another opening, but again James saved a Tomas shot. Celta continued to force the pace and as half-time approached Giovanella rattled the bar with a stunning shot from 25 yards.

The home side started the second half the way they had finished the first, with Juan Velasco carving a path through the Villa defence, but his finish was poor and he dragged the ball well wide of the target.

On the hour, Fernando Caceres bundled over Dublin and Thompson stepped up to take the free-kick from 25 yards out but his fierce shot was spectacularly turned away by Pinto. Then came Dublin's costly miss with Celta making the breakthrough with just a minute to go.

Celta Vigo: Pinto, Velasco, Caceres, Giovanella, Tomas, Karpin, Juanfran, Doriva, McCarthy, Sergio, Gonzalez. Substitutes: Roberto, Coira, Jesuli, Jonathan, Mena, Noguerol, Campos.

Aston Villa (4-4-2): James; Stone, Barry, Samuel, Wright; Boateng, Taylor, Hendrie, Thompson; Nilis, Dublin. Substitutes: Enckelman, Joachim, Lescott, McGrath, Vassell, Standing, Walker.

Referee: Konrad Plautz (Austria).

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