VILLA 1-1 CSKA Moscow
The atmosphere came alive even before the game began as home fans waved their commemorative flags and created a sea of claret and blue on the terraces.
But the feel-good factor was put on hold as Martin O'Neill's men were rocked by an away opener - totally against the run of play.
Vagner Love - mentioned at every turn in the run up to the game - produced a wonderful finish in the 15th minute.
Villa's response was awesome as they went forward in waves and created plenty of openings.
It looked for a while as if an equaliser was not on the agenda - but then John Carew came good big time.
The Norwegian powerhouse fired home on 69 minutes after great build-up play from Craig Gardner.
Villa may not be taking a lead to Russia but with the team's away quality you'd still fancy them to get the right result.
90mins - SUBSTITUTION -Erkin Caner for Yury Zhirkov
89mins - SUBSTITUTION - Pavel Mamaev for Evgeni Aldonin
87mins - BOOKING - Luke Young (foul)
85mins - Evgeni Aldonin fires in a tremendous drive but Brad Guzan does well to save - at the second time of asking.
83mins - Vagner Love is close to making it 2-1 but his dinked effort from inside the box goes just wide.
82mins - FC - Craig Tracey: "I originally went for 2-0 but now I'm going to say 3-1." We'd settle for that.
80mins - Ashley Young fires just wide then John Carew can't find the net with his prodded effort. Keep going Villa.
79mins - SUBSTITUTION - Daniel Carvalho for Alan Dzagoev
76mins - FC - Matt Lesesky: "How is Brad Guzan performing?" If we're honest, he's had little to do.
72mins - It's John Carew again but this time his header is too close to CSKA's goalkeeper. Don't want to appear greedy but it would be great to take a lead to Russia.
70mins - The fans burst into song - 'John Carew, Carew, he's bigger than me and you.' Let's hope he's gonna score one then two.
69mins - GOAL - Get in! John Carew fires home after an incisive pass from Craig Gardner down the right. At last.
66mins - Fantastic move from CSKA. Alexei Berezutski plays a clever one-two with Vagner Love before firing wide. The Russians do show flashes of brilliance.
65mins - Gareth Barry sets up Ashley Young for the cross then makes the run into the box but he can't quite connect with his acrobatic effort.
61mins - Craig Gardner fires in a free-kick but drags it wide. Keep going Villa - we can feel a goal coming.
60mins - Gabby Agbonlahor is inches away again - this time with a header from Gareth Barry's cross.
58mins - The Holte End screams for a penalty as Gareth Barry's headed effort appears to be handled. The referee waves away the protests.
57mins - Ashley Young's free-kick is well saved by Igor Akinfeev.
55mins - It's close but Vagner Love is offside as he races through. Thank goodness for that.
52mins - It's relentless one-way traffic. We need to make this dominance pay.
51mins - Craig Gardner heads against the crossbar from Ashley Young's corner. Agonising!
49mins - 'Holte Enders in the Sky' is sung loud and proud - we need a goal. If we score, the place will erupt.
48mins - CSKA Moscow have a chance - Yury Zhirkov firing just over Brad Guzan's bar.
47mins - A good start for Villa - they are already on the front foot.
46mins - The players have emerged from the dressing room - and the flags are out again. Awesome, truly awesome.
45mins - By the way, the special edition programmes look awesome - congrats to the team behind the publication, it's a cracking read.
43mins - We've just had a shot of Guus Hiddink and Roman Abramovich - they are obviously here to check out the weekend's opposition.
39mins - BOOKING - Stiliyan Petrov (kicking the ball away)
35mins - FC - Jon Bagshaw: "I still think Villa will win tonight but I'm worried about that away goal." Keep the faith Jon. By the way, James Milner is nursing a slight thigh problem but we're hoping he'll be fit to face Chelsea at the weekend.
34mins - MON is prowling around his technical area as always - he must be happy with the effort, commitment and quality of his players so far.
33mins - John Carew heads marginally over from Ashley Young's terrific cross from the left. It's a matter of inches again.
32mins - It's been attack, attack, attack throughout the half so far. How are we one-down?
29mins - Gabby Agbonlahor is out of luck again. He just can't quite get the telling touch on a great centre from Ashley Young. The move follows unbelievable battling from Barry in central midfield.
27mins - GB manages to make his way past four CSKA players. He really is a top-quality star.
25mins - The cameras pan to a claret and blue fan with his chest laid bare, wearing one of the club's Russian hats. What a sight!
24mins - The defenders are frightened of Gabby Agbonlahor. It's three against one at the back and they kick it out for a throw-in.
21mins - Fantastic low ball into the box from the left by Nicky Shorey and Gabby Agbonlahor is inches away from firing home. So close!
19mins - John Carew can't quite reach Ashley Young's pinpoint cross from the left. Honestly folks, I know we're one-down but we're playing very well. Keep the faith.
18mins - Craig Gardner fires in a fierce drive but Igor Akinfeev manages to get his body behind the shot.
16mins - FC - Neil Daniels: "I'm worried about this evening now." Don't worry Neil, the goal has come against the run of play.
15mins - GOAL - Great play from the Russians - superb interplay and Vagner Love fires home past Brad Guzan from close-range. Come on Villa - plenty still to play for.
14mins - Stiliyan Petrov is an absolute powerhouse in central midfield.
11mins - Ashley Young tries to swing a free-kick past Igor Akinfeev from 20 yards out. Unfortunately his shot is too close to the goakeeping captain.
9mins - FC - Neil: "Why is Brad Friedel on the bench?" Hi Neil, Brad Guzan is our UEFA Cup goalkeeper. MON likes to play him in European competition, simple as that.
8mins - Both sides are checking each other out at the moment - no real chances of note. Hopefully plenty of excitement to come.
3mins - FC - Sarah Lees: "Villa Park - you are doing us all proud. Those flags looked ace." Hello there Sarah, the flags were incredible - a real stand-out moment of the season.
1mins - 'John Carew, Carew, he's bigger than me and you.' The chanting has begun already - top quality. And Big JC gives the fans a wave to thank them for their support.
18.56pm - FC - The atmosphere here is breathtaking. The whole arena is full of flag-waving Villa fanatics. Even Randy Lerner and General Krulak are waving their flags loud and proud. It's a truly remarkable sight.
18.44pm - FC - Bethany Tracey: "I think Villa will win 4-2." The Tracey family are disagreeing again. The main thing is they all believe the claret and blue troops will emerge victorious.
18.40pm - FC - Craig Tracey: "I predict a 2-0 win tonight with Ashley Young and Gabby Agbonlahor getting the goals."
18.30pm - FC - Guy Reading: "I hope The Fonz makes an impact this evening." Hi Guy, he's a young player with a big, big future.
18.22pm - FC - Jonathan Rich: "I'm glad GB had a break at the weekend. We need a big performance tonight. I hope Wagner Love won't be loving it."
18.15pm - FC - Paul Stephens: "I don't agree with Tim. We must surely field our strongest team. This is a competition we want to win."
17.50pm - FC - Tim Smith: "I'm not sure who I want to play this evening because we have such an important game against Chelsea at the weekend. We can't have tired players." Good point Tim but we need to go for it in every competition!
VILLA: Guzan; L Young BOOKED, Davies, Knight, Shorey; Gardner, Barry, Petrov BOOKED, A Young; Carew, Agbonlahor. Subs: Friedel, Salifou, Harewood, Delfouneso, Bannan, Lowry, Albrighton.
CSKA Moscow: Akinfeev, Ignashevich, A Berezutski, Love, Krasic, Zhirkov, Aldonin, V Berezutski, Rahmic, Shchennikov, Dzagoev. Subs: Pomazan, Ramon, Carvalho (for Dzagoev, 79), Mamaev (for Aldonin, 89), Da Silva, Odiah, Caner (for Zhirkov, 90).