Milosevic gives; Villa a touch of magic

COCA-COLA CUP FINAL

COCA-COLA CUP FINAL

Aston Villa 3 Leeds United 0

Milosevic (21), Taylor (55)

Yorke (90) Attendance: 77,056

For weeks Brian Little has been telling anybody who cares to listen that Savo Milosevic just might score the most important goal of the season. Perhaps the Aston Villa manager has second sight as well as far sight.

Milosevic scored a goal at Wembley yesterday which was worthy of winning any final. This one, arrowed in after 20 minutes, went a long way towards winning the Coca-Cola Cup final. It tilted an even match in Villa's direction and, when Ian Taylor stymied a possible Leeds United revival with a second after 55 minutes, Villa's record-equalling fifth success in the competition was assured.

The match itself was disappointing, it was too one-sided. Leeds, despite a positive approach, did not play. Villa were excellent, from the Croat, Bosnich, through to the Serb, Milosevic.

There was one consolation for Leeds. They have lost a final, but they may have found a star, Andy Gray, 18-year-old son of Frank, and, more pertinently, nephew of Eddie. Gray looked instantly at home at Wembley and, though he was unable to match Uncle Eddie's Wembley performance in 1970, he loooked as if he may do one day.

Gray's inclusion was the biggest of a clutch of surprises sprung by Howard Wilkinson. In a change from recent policy he devised a wing-back system with the emphasis on attack. Gary Speed, rather than Nigel Worthington, was employed on the left and Gary Kelly given licence to push forward on the right. Gary McAllister was also given a more forward role. Villa lined up as expected. Only Tommy Johnson of their injury victims was not fit to start and he joined Steve Staunton on the bench.

The young Gray was first to shine, his ancestry quickly evident as he dribbled just out of touch on the left byline. Then he went past Gareth Southgate as if he were dribbling by a training cone and curled a shot past the post.

He was not the only one to settle quickly, both sides forcing early corners, but it was 14 minutes before either goalkeeper was stirred. Then it was John Lukic who made the save, not that he knew much about it. Dwight Yorke, given alarming space from a Leeds viewpoint, crashed one shot into John Pemberton's body before, having retrieved the rebound, thumping a second against Lukic's shoulder.

Lukic spread himself well then but he had little chance when, six minutes later, Milosevic struck. A Speed error led to his gaining possession 25 yards out. He advanced on Pemberton before whipping a dipping drive past and over Lukic's right hand.

It was the sort of goal which must have featured prominently in that legendary video - the one that persuaded Little to buy him. But who was laughing now?

Villa now took control as Leeds sought to steady themselves. A Milosevic header was deflected over, Andy Townsend and Mark Draper tested Lukic, even Southgate was spotted crossing from the byline - which must have impressed the watching Terry Venables.

Leeds slowly settled again but they remained troubled by Milosevic and Yorke, with the Serb twice being halted by last-ditch tackles. In attack they at least stretched Mark Bosnich, the Villa keeper being forced to punch away a corner under pressure from McAllister.

That gave a clue to Wilkinson's half-time switch. Brian Deane's height and strength were added to the attack, Gray was moved to the left and Villa's wing-backs were forced to defend. It almost paid dividends as Gray, twice, came inside Gary Charles but each time shot when he could have crossed.

Villa's verve remained unquenchable however and they, too, spread their wings. A Yorke chipped cross was just cleared then, 10 minutes into the second half, Wright crossed from the left, Lucas Radebe, under pressure from Milosevic, half-cleared, and Taylor followed in to volley inside the far post.

Villa, who have won more matches and scored more goals than any club in the 35-year history of this competition, began to celebrate. Deane and Carlton Palmer had half-chances but Villa always looked more likely to add to their total than concede.

They did with a minute to go. Milosevic made a break down the right before pulling the ball back to Yorke. The Trinidadian, overcoming his surprise at his partner passing inside the box, fired into the roof of the net.

Aston Villa (3-5-2): Bosnich; Ehiogu, McGrath, Southgate; Charles, Taylor, Draper, Townsend, Wright; Yorke, Milosevic. Substitutes not used: Staunton, Johnson, Oakes (gk).

Leeds United (3-5-2): Lukic; Wetherall, Pemberton, Radebe (Brolin, 65); Kelly, Palmer, McAllister, Ford (Deane, h-t), Speed; Gray, Yeboah. Substitute not used: Worthington.

Referee: R Hart (Darlington).

Bookings: Aston Villa: McGrath, Southgate; Leeds United: Wetherall, Ford.

Man of the match: Townsend.

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