Rapid Vienna 1 Aston Villa 0
Nikica Jelavic scored inside the first minute as Aston Villa were beaten by Rapid Vienna in the first leg of their Europa League qualifier tonight.
Jelavic headed home just seconds after kick-off at the Gerhard Hanappi Stadium to secure a victory the Austrian side deserved for their dominance in the rest of the game.
Christopher Drazan was a constant threat for Rapid and had one good shot cleared off the line by Curtis Davies while Brad Guzan saved another.
Villa’s best moments came in the second half but Davies headed over from one clear-cut opportunity and the visitors failed to seriously test opposing goalkeeper Helge Payer.
Guzan was given a rare start in the Villa goal in one of four changes made by manager Martin O’Neill following last weekend’s defeat by Wigan.
But the first job of the American, replacing his rested compatriot Brad Friedel, was to pick the ball out of the net after Rapid made the perfect start.
Only seconds had gone when the ball was worked out to the dangerous Drazan on the left and he whipped in a curling cross for Jelavic to head home.
Villa responded with Craig Gardner firing over while an Ashley Young cross was unconventionally punched clear by Payer.
James Milner was one of Villa’s livelier players but he also saw a cross dealt with by Payer.
Rapid continued to look dangerous in possession and Drazan broke clear down the left again only to deliver a poor ball into the box.
Stefan Hoffmann also tested Guzan with a long-range shot but the keeper was equal to the task. Hoffmann then felt he was impeded by Steve Sidwell on the edge of the box but the referee was not interested.
Nicky Shorey created another opportunity for Villa when he beat three men to get in a cross but Rapid cleared and Emile Heskey headed wide from a Milner cross just before the interval.
Villa made an encouraging start to the second half and the introduction of Gabriel Agbonlahor for Gardner added pace but still the visitors struggled to test Payer.
Young’s curling free-kick was tipped away for a corner by Payer but replays showed it would have dipped over anyway.
Shorey was given a shooting chance from the resulting corner but fired into the side-netting.
Young created Villa’s best opportunity with a brilliant turn and cross just after the hour but Davies was unable to keep his header down.
Milner and Young then combined at a free-kick but the winger’s shot was just off target.
Despite Villa’s increased urgency, Rapid were still a threat and the visitors were almost caught twice by Drazan in a matter of moments with 20 minutes remaining.
Drazan first showed great control on the edge of the area before testing Guzan with a ferocious shot.
Substitute Christopher Trimmel then weaved his way into the area past Shorey and Yasin Pehlivan set up Drazan but Davies cleared off the line.
Villa finished strongly but Milner could not make the most of Young’s cross and Sidwell shot straight at Payer.