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August 22, 2009

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Villa suffers Austrian defeat

ASTON Villa has work to do in the Europa League after losing its playoff first leg on Thursday away to Austria's Rapid Vienna 0-1.

The Austrians caught Villa cold as Nikica Jelavic netted the only goal in the opening minute to floor the English Premier League side, which began its league campaign last week with a surprising home loss to Wigan Athletic.

Villa coach Martin O'Neill shrugged off the defeat. "We knew this was going to be exceptionally difficult -- so will the return tie -- but we are going to try to win," said O'Neill, a European Cup winner with Nottingham Forest.

"Of course we can overturn it. It was never going to be an easy match but this time next week we will be fitter again."

Another top-flight English side, Everton, had a much easier time of it as it swamped Czech club Sigma Olomouc 4-0 in its first game of the Europa League, a revamped version of the UEFA Cup.

Louis Saha and Jack Rodwell both scored twice, either side of half-time to bolster Everton's morale after an opening 1-6 Premier League mauling by Arsenal at Goodison Park.

"Jack has great potential and we hope he will go on to fulfil it. We will bring him along in the right way," said Everton boss David Moyes.

Fulham won 3-1 at home to Russian minnow Amkar Perm with Andy Johnson, Clint Dempsey and Bobby Zamora all on target.

There was heartbreak for Scotland's Hearts, however, after a 0-4 thrashing at Dinamo Zagreb.

Slovakian side Kosice meanwhile gave glitzy Italian rival AS Roma a fright as they shared six goals with the host's Jan Novak bagging a brace. Francesco Totti also hit a double for Roma.

One side almost guaranteed the win over two legs, and a place in the group stages, is Germany's in-form Hamburg, which swamped Guingamp 5-1 in France.

Spain's former Champions League semifinalist Villarreal and Switzerland's Basel both scored 3-1 away successes at Holland's NAC Breda and Azeri outfit Baku, respectively.

Two Israeli sides enjoyed contrasting fortunes as Hapoel Tel Aviv won 2-1 with a last-gasp winner at Czech opponent Teplice but city rival Bnei Yehuda Tel-Aviv went down to an Ibrahim Afellay goal as PSV Eindhoven clinched a 1-0 away leg success.

Meanwhile, UEFA has ordered Dinamo Bucharest to appear before a disciplinary panel next week after its rioting fans forced its home match against Slovan Liberec to be abandoned.

The Romanian club trailed 0-2 at home to its Czech opponent when fans tried to invade the pitch in the 88th minute.

Police and security staff stopped the fans encroaching beyond an athletics track circling the pitch, but Austrian referee Thomas Einwaller abandoned the match fearing for the players' safety.

UEFA said yesterday that the panel can decide to let the 2-0 result stand or impose a heavier defeat on Dinamo.


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