Vassell makes vital strike

Stade Rennes 2 Aston Villa 1
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The Independent Online

Darius Vassell scored a crucial away goal in injury-time in the first leg of Aston Villa's Intertoto Cup semi-final here last night.

Villa had gone two-down after Severino Lucas and substitute Cyril Chapuis had scored for their French opponents. However, Vassell, who came on for Dion Dublin late in the game, latched on to a free-kick from fellow substitute David Ginola to head home.

Rennes, who finished sixth in the French League last season, started the match impressively and their incisive passing opened up the Villa defence with alarming frequency.

Villa, who were without £5.7 million signing, Swedish international defender Olof Mellberg, due to a delay in his registration, also lost their new goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel after he pulled a muscle in the warm-up.

Lucas, a highly-rated Brazil Under-23 international striker, gave the home side the lead on 20 minutes, after latching on to a pass from Oliver Monterrubio, and was all alone to put the ball beyond Villa keeper Peter Enckelman.

The visitors continued to struggle to contain Rennes in front of a capacity 15,753 crowd as Villa looked bereft of attacking ideas with manager John Gregory leaving his £9.5m striker Juan Pablo Angel and Ginola on the bench.

Ginola was finally brought into the action in the 53rd minute, with Steve Stone making way, and Mustapha Hadji replaced fellow Moroccan Kachloul on 62.

Despite their increased attacking options, Villa found themselves two down with just 13 minutes remaining – Chapuis latching on to a long ball to score.

Two minutes later Gregory substituted Dublin for Vassell and the young striker rewarded his manager with the crucial strike in the 90th minute.

Rennes: Durand, Reveillere, Cesar, Arribage, Escude, Le Roux, Echouafni, Delaye, Danic, Lucas, Monterubbio.

Aston Villa: Enckelman, Delaney, Wright, Barry, Alpay, Boateng, Stone, Kachloul, Dublin, Merson, Hendrie.

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