Yorke relieves pressure

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The Independent Online
When two former European champions meet, it should prove to be pretty hot stuff. It did, but that had much more to do with the sun in the sky than the stars on the pitch.

Not that the thousands of Villa fans, who trudged in some trepidation through the baking heat in Birmingham to see their side continue the struggle to stave off relegation, would have been too concerned about the quality of the game.

Three points was what they wanted from the last home match and that was what they got. Villa will almost certainly need something from their last match, at relegated Norwich, but if Everton and Coventry were to lose in midweek, then when those sides meet on Sunday they would not both be able to overtake Villa.

It was difficult to believe that on such an emotional occasion the Holte End hordes in Villa's biggest crowd of the season would obey instructions not to follow the example of a late-match streaker and keep off the pitch after the whistle, but to their immense credit they did. Possibly that was because the tension had evaporated like morning dew as the second half progressed. Two goals to the good at the interval, courtesy of Dwight Yorke's brow, Villa were rarely threatened by one of the limpest of Liverpool performances.

Roy Evans, the Liverpoolmanager, apologised to the fans who had followed them down from the North-West for what he described as "a deckchair day" from his players. His opposite number, Brian Little, was understandably far from disappointed by the visitors' form. "I think they did just about enough," he said.

The wry smile that accompanied the comment came, perhaps, in recognition of the fact that his side is so much less than the sum of its parts. There were fine performances from Ugo Ehiogu and Andy Townsend, who combined to earn the corner from which Yorke opened the scoring with the first goal by a Villa forward since February. Dean Saunders chased everything, as usual, on a day when many would have been hard pushed to do much more than wring the sweat out of a shirt, and he pounced on yet another Mark Wright mistake to cross for Yorke's second.

But it is not difficult to see why Villa have struggled. It took 20 minutes for their eagerness, overlaid by anxiety, to generate a shot. Their attacks were aimless, their moves unco-ordinated. Their new-found determination, instilled while in a state of shock after being hammered at home by Arsenal last month, proved to be enough on the day, but with the players Little has at his disposal, Villa should have so much more than that going for them.

Goals: Yorke (25) 1-0; Yorke (36) 2-0.

Aston Villa (5-3-2): Bosnich; Charles, Ehiogu, McGrath, Teale, Wright; Taylor, Townsend, Staunton (Fenton, 75); Saunders, Yorke. Substitutes not used: Johnson, Spink (gk).

Liverpool (3-4-1-2): James; Scales, Wright, Harkness; Thomas, Redknapp, Barnes, Walters (Matteo, 75); McManaman; Rush (Clough, 64), Fowler. Substitute not used: Warner (gk).

Referee: R Hart (Darlington).