Savo the saviour

Aston Villa 1 Milosevic 37 Sunderland 0 Attendance: 32,491

Villa have been suffering the kind of lean times in which any goal is welcomed, no matter how scruffily packaged, and it will not concern them at all if the next Savo Milosevic video leaves out yesterday's Villa Park winner.

Every bobble and bounce off the shin went the much-mocked Serb striker's way as his seventh goal of the season woke up a subdued Villa crowd, from the juggernaut turn in midfield by which he somehow propelled the ball towards Sunderland's goal to the deflected sidefoot shot which sent goalkeeper Lionel Perez off- balance before coming to rest in the bottom corner.

They all count. And after waiting until now for their first Premiership victory of 1997, Villa were relieved to count three points towards the restoration of their faltering season. Such has been Villa's decline that they had not won in six league matches, since thrashing Wimbledon 5-0 before Christmas. They have also seen their FA Cup campaign go the way of their interest in the Coca-Cola Cup, the winning of which last season gave rise to the optimism that greeted this one.

Another stab at the Uefa Cup appeared the only target for which they can now realistically aim, but on this performance even that may seem ambitious. They were hampered here by the absence of key personnel, but there was evidence of a lack of self-belief that will worry Brian Little more. "Without Andy Townsend, Mark Draper and Ian Taylor, the balance in midfield is not right," the Villa manager said. "Really, we played poorly at times so the result was a relief."

Even Little conceded that fortune had favoured Milosevic, although he pointed out that Dwight Yorke might have scored two other goals before half-time, firstly after a sharp one-two with Milosevic, when Perez saved well, and again, just before the break, when a low Milosevic cross eluded him by inches.

Sunderland, as they often do, looked solid without offering much threat going forward, however Villa's Mark Bosnich pulled off a fine fingertip save to deny John Mullin. Jan Eriksson, who played in the Helsingborg's team that put Villa out of Europe this season, made a sound debut in Sunderland's defence, though it was his foot that unwittingly gave Milosevic his winning moment.

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