Milosevic makes the difference

Aston Villa 4 Johnson 12, Milosevic 48, 63, 80 Coventry City 1 Dublin 54 Attendance: 28,486
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The Independent Online
SOME of the bigwigs from Uefa in Birmingham for today's European Championship draw took in this match and found themselves witnessing a typical English derby.

By half-time, one player had been sent off, another carried off, there had been two stoppages for head wounds, and Aston Villa were about to lose their goalkeeper to another injury. But the game also boasted a magnificent solo goal by Villa's Tommy Johnson, which was only just eclipsed in terms of drama by Savo Milosevic's second-half hat-trick.

The dismissal of Kevin Richardson seven minutes before half-time for his second bookable offence probably turned the game Villa's way. Richardson had been booked in the second minute for up-ending Mark Draper in a totally innocuous area of the pitch, and the referee Paul Alcock took against his late lunge on Johnson, which did not connect but forced the striker to take swift evasive action.

Richardson's evident unhappiness was in direct contrast to Milosevic's achievements - his first home goals of the season, which brought his total to eight, five of which have now been registered against the hapless Coventry defence. This only served to underline the urgency of another recruitment for Ron Atkinson, the Coventry manager, after he lost out to Blackburn for the signature of Chris Coleman in midweek, an effective Lancastrian revenge for last week's 5-0 defeat.

Whether Coleman could have prevented any of Villa's goals is debatable. Johnson's virtuosity, after Draper had soared above Richardson to win a header, saw him weave past at least four Coventry defenders before slamming a right-footer past John Filan, who was deputising for the suspended Steve Ogrizovic.

This early lead settled Villa after Coventry had made some belligerent moves. Dwight Yorke, who was injured and then substituted after a clash of heads with David Busst, could have increased Villa's lead by the half- hour, but his diving header was ruled out for offside.

Deflated by the deficit and the dismissal, Coventry drew brief hope at the sight of Nigel Spink replacing Mark Bosnich after the interval. But this, and a terrible miss by Milosevic, stabbing feebly from less than two yards, proved a false omen. The lanky Serbian striker soon buried Johnson's cross at the far post to give Villa a two-goal security cushion.

Dion Dublin's diving header five minutes later gave Coventry hope, but their defence could not cope with the sharp running down the right of Gary Charles, Draper and Ian Taylor. All three combined to set up Milosevic for his second as he headed home Draper's pinpoint cross after Taylor's angled pass.

Busst was caught in possession by Andy Townsend, leaving Milosevic to chip calmly home. The win lifted Villa to fourth place, but left Coventry's 28-year tenancy in the top division liable to eviction come May.