Villa profit from another barren night

Football: Leeds United 0 Aston Villa 0
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The Independent Online
Leeds, the lowest scorers in all four divisions, and Aston Villa, who have the worst strike-rate in the Premiership's top eight, fought out a predictable if not uneventful goalless draw last night. Villa, at least, took some satisfaction from Elland Road's third successive barren stalemate, which leaves them well-placed to qualify for the Uefa Cup after Sheffield Wednesday's capitulation across the Pennines.

With Leeds safe from relegation and Villa striving to keep their European hopes alive, the contest was more open than many at the ground of late. George Graham deputed Lucas Radebe to track Dwight Yorke wherever he roamed, though there was no lack of other Villa players pouring forward.

Gareth Southgate twice came from the back to test his former Crystal Palace colleague, Nigel Martyn. Ian Taylor stumbled with only the keeper to beat, while Martyn made a fine one-handed save from Savo Milosevic's long-range lob and was perfectly positioned to catch Ugo Ehiogu's shot after a twisting run and cut-back by Sasa Curcic.

Despite having less possession, Leeds came closer to scoring in the first half. Mark Bosnich, recalled after his fit of pique at Derby, had to beat down Lee Bowyer's drive before Villa could clear. He was a spectator, however, as Ian Rush's glancing header from a Gary Kelly cross came out off the underside of the bar midway through the first half.

Steve Staunton became the final member of Villa's back line to worry Martyn, his free-kick fizzing just over the bar after 54 minutes. Derek Lilley, Leeds' new Scots striker, showed the pace of his cricketing near- namesake, if not quite his mastery of the ball.

Martyn preserved Leeds record of not conceding a home goal since Boxing Day with another splendid stop from Milosevic. Lilley and Tony Dorigo almost stole the points late on, but Graham's team look certain to finish the season with fewest goals this century by any top-flight club who survived the drop.

Leeds United (3-5-2): Martyn; Wetherall, Halle, Radebe; Kelly, Laurent (Wallace, 62), Palmer, Bowyer, Dorigo; Lilley, Rush. Substitutes not used: Sharpe, Harte, Molenaar, Beeney (gk).

Aston Villa (3-5-2): Bosnich; Ehiogu, Staunton, Southgate; Nelson, Townsend (Farrelly, h-t), Taylor, Curcic, Wright; Yorke, Milosevic. Substitutes not used: Joachim, Murray, Hughes, Oakes (gk).

Referee: G Barber (Woking).

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