Yorke revels in heat

Aston Villa2 Yorke 25, 36 Liverpool0 Attendance: 40,154
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The Independent Online
IN THE end, like the late streaker who ran on to enliven a match in 80 degree heat drifting to a somnolent conclusion, it was such a little thing to get worried about. Aston Villa comfortably collected three points from an obliging Liverpool and though results elsewhere did not especially favour Villa, the threat of relegation from the Premiership has receded somewhat.

It was Villa's first home win since early February and Dwight Yorke's brace of goals was equal to the amount the team had gleaned in their previous nine games. Some like it hot and Yorke appears to be one of them; in the corresponding match at the end of last season, he came on as a substitute and scored both goals in a 2-1 win.

They will go to an already relegated Norwich next Sunday still in some trouble, however, despite yesterday's win over a Liverpool who wilted badly, Steve McManaman apart, after Yorke's first goal, although there were signs even of lethargy before. "A deck-chair day for us. Not acceptable," the Liverpool manager, Roy Evans, admitted.

"Hopefully Norwich won't be trying a leg either," Villa's driving force, Steve Staunton, let slip afterwards. Manchester United, meanwhile, will be hoping that Liverpool, assured of a place in the Uefa Cup after their Coca-Cola Cup win a month ago, will offer stiffer resistance to Blackburn Rovers at Anfield a week today.

A packed, passionate Villa Park played a large part in lifting its team, certainly more than the playing of "Land of Hope and Glory" before the kick-off. It seemed a curious choice with three Irishmen, a Welshman, an Australian and a Trinidadian in their line-up.

Villa paid little heed to the line urging "wider still and wider", with no natural winger in the side but Staunton, with a performance of effective industry from wide on the left urged on his team by example. He also reminded Liverpool of what Graeme Souness had let go.

Their greater commitment was easily evident - along with a lack of confidence in an error-strewn opening - and it brought its reward midway through the first half. Ugo Ehiogu, always strong when breaking forward from the back five, played a one-two with Andy Townsend and was left with only David James to beat, but the goalkeeper turned aside his shot from close range. From Staunton's corner, with Liverpool left appealing that Ehiogu was impeding James on the goalline, Yorke popped up at the far post to head home.

Now any home nerves were quelled and 10 minutes later Villa were two clear. Mark Wright's miscued headed clearance reached only Dean Saunders on the right and from his curling cross, Yorke dived in ahead of James to plant home a header.

Liverpool were strollingly sporadic. McManaman, an oasis of effort and ingenuity, troubled Mark Bosnich with two shots and Robbie Fowler curled another wide. But that was it.

"Our mentality has to be the same as it has for the last 10 days," the Villa manager, Brian Little, said of the match at Norwich. "We went away for a few days to get away from the previous six weeks and talked about being more committed. That's been a major reason for us winning today and getting a point in midweek."

That came against Manchester City, courtesy of a controversial goal by Ehiogu, who had innocently asserted in that night's match programme: "It's in our hands." Midweek results may render it clearer but as of today their fate does remains so, if tenuously with Everton and Coventry still having to meet. For such a big club, though, and even should they escape, Villa do still have a streaky and streaker's look about them.