Wilkinson ignores a luxury called Brolin

Aston Villa 3 Leeds United 0
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The Independent Online

Aston Villa 3 Leeds United 0

It took some dragging out of him but finally Howard Wilkinson revealed the truth about Tomas Brolin, whose absence from a heavily depleted Leeds side was a mystery unexplained until long after the last baffled Leeds supporter had set off back to Yorkshire.

"I've come here with nine first-team players unavailable," the Leeds manager said, "and from the 15 who were I've had to pick a team which I think will be most effective here. I felt the team would do better at Aston Villa without him."

But there was more to it than simply dropping a player in poor form. "Before we played Liverpool," Wilkinson confessed, "Tomas was concerned about the amount of defending he might have to do and expressed an opinion that he might not be good at it.

"He wondered if I might reconsider his selection. So that is what I did on this occasion. He took it very well. In fact, he thought it was an eminently sensible decision."

It was quite an admission; and one which sets more question marks against his recent judgement, in the marketplace at any rate. Having sold Noel Whelan and David White, both of whom scored on Saturday, Wilkinson is left with a pounds 4.5m international revealed now as a luxury player, over whom the likes of Alan Maybury, making his debut here at the age of 17, and the two 20-year-olds, Rob Bowman and Andy Couzens, are preferred.

For his part, Brolin said: "When you are out for almost a year, as I was, you need time. I need also time to get used to the Premiership - maybe more time than I thought I would need. It is hard, fast football and there are no easy games. I have the option to go at the end of the season but I still want to do well and succeed in England."

Villa, who rested Tommy Johnson and Ugo Ehiogu, chalked off at least as many misses as hits. Dwight Yorke, having scored twice in 23 minutes, failed narrowly to complete a first-half hat-trick and Savo Milosevic, another costly foreign import under the microscope, wasted two good openings after the break.

Yorke's goals raised his total to 51 in a Villa shirt, enhancing his reputation as a talisman in the way Ian Rush once was for Liverpool. Yorke has scored in 45 senior Villa games, of which they have lost only one.

The exception, by coincidence, was against Leeds in 1991. There was never a chance of that result being duplicated, especially after Alan Wright, set up by Yorke, popped up with Villa's third.

Goals: Yorke (11) 1-0; Yorke (23) 2-0; Wright (62) 3-0.

Aston Villa (5-3-2): Bosnich; Charles, Southgate, McGrath, Staunton, Wright; Taylor, Draper, Townsend (Farrelly, 86); Yorke, Milosevic. Substitutes not used: Carr, Oakes (gk).

Leeds United (5-3-2): Beeney; Couzens, Palmer, Pemberton (Worthington, 24), Bowman, Dorigo; McAllister, Maybury (Tinkler, h-t), Speed; Deane, Wallace. Substitute not used: Gray.

Referee: R Hart (Darlington).

Bookings: Leeds: Worthington, Deane.

Man of the match: Yorke.

Attendance: 35,982.