Johnson back on target

Blackburn Rovers 0 Aston Villa 2 Johnson 64, Yorke 79 Attendanc e: 24,274
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The Independent Online
After scoring only once in their four preceding games, Aston Villa looked to be firing blanks again but two goals in the second half may have revitalised their European ambitions.

Inevitably, the match was overshadowed by what looked a potentially serious injury to the Blackburn player Chris Sutton, only two minutes into the match. Back in the Blackburn side after a four-match absence, the pounds 5m striker collided with the Villa defender Ugo Ehiogu before staggering a few paces and falling to the ground, apparently after a clash of heads.

After receiving attention from both the Blackburn and Villa physios, Sutton was borne away on a stretcher before being taken to hospital amid concern for his wellbeing.

Sutton's replacement, Per Pedersen, had an opportunity, albeit a difficult one, to deliver his first goal at Ewood Park, when a long pass sent him clear after 28 minutes. But he was foiled unconventionally by the goalkeeper Mark Bosnich, who raced from his area to rob the striker with his feet.

Better openings appeared at the other end, none more inviting than the one that came Dwight Yorke's way two minutes later. Mistakes by Colin Hendry and Henning Berg put the ball at Yorke's feet with a goal looking certain. However, the Villa leading scorer's attempt to chip Tim Flowers drifted wide of the left-hand post.

It was a finish perfectly in keeping with a largely undistinguished contest. When a decent move finally came off, deep into first-half stoppage time, Savo Milosevic delivered the telling pass but Ian Taylor's fine strike, swept past Flowers from eight yards, was ruled offside.

The big Serb has had his share of detractors during his two seasons in this country but his presence invariably unsettles defenders. Neither Julian Joachim nor Johnson, the other Villa options as partners for Yorke, can provide the same robust support.

It was from a pass by Milosevic early in the second half that the visitors squandered a second invitation to take the lead. Again the opportunity fell to Taylor but though there was no flag this time Flowers spread himself effectively to save.

It was a touch ironic that the replacement of Milosevic - a consequence, presumably, of the injury he picked up on international duty 11 days ago - with Johnson should lead to Villa going ahead. Johnson's first touch had almost brought a goal after Yorke headed down Alan Wright's free-kick.

Then, barely five minutes after taking the field, the substitute raced into a clear space on the left. Taking Wright's pass without breaking stride, Johnson found the bottom right-hand corner of Blackburn's goal with a left-foot shot from just inside the penalty area.

Ten minutes from time Villa's victory was guaranteed when a slip by Hendry presented Yorke with an easy opportunity to score his 18th goal of the season.