Match report: Villa 2-3 Rapid Vienna
An extraordinary late fightback from Rapid Vienna dashed Villa's Europa League hopes.
The Austrians proved to be a bogey team for the boys in claret and blue once again, ending their involvement in European competition for the second year running.
It had all looked so good for Villa, who brought a 1-1 draw and a priceless away goal back from last Thursday's first leg in Vienna.
And when Gabby Agbonlahor fired Kevin MacDonald's team ahead 22 minutes into this second leg, Villa looked on course for a spot in the group stages.
They had dominated throughout and never looked in any real danger until Atdhe Nhiu's equaliser early in the second-half.
But, although Emile Heskey restored the lead 13 minutes from time, Rapid turned the tables with late goals from Mario Sonnleitner and Rene Gartler.
The night started so brightly with Agbonlahor converting Ashley Young's cross on 22 minutes, to put his team 1-0 up on the night and 2-1 ahead on aggregate.
It was full steam ahead from Villa, who made their intentions clear from the first whistle.
Young was at the heart of their best play, forcing Raimund Hedl to push a dipping free-kick to safety on 17 minutes.
James Collins, making his return from injury along with Agbonlahor and Carlos Cuellar, crept in at the back post to head a corner from the former Watford forward just wide.
But when the breakthrough did arrive, it was hardly surprising that Young had a big hand in the build-up.
It was a classic Ash and Gab. Stiliyan Petrov slid a pass into Young on the right of the penalty box.
The classy attacker reacted quickly to send a teasing ball into the six-yard area which Agbonlahor converted with ease on 22 minutes.
Unfortunately, Agbonalahor's contribution was short and sweet.
The reoccurrence of a calf problem forced him to make way for Marc Albrighton six minutes before the break.
But, when the 23-year-old left the field, the claret and blues were firmly in control.
Neat footwork from Heskey allowed the lively Stephen Ireland to motor into the box and stab goalwards, only for Markus Heikkinen to arrive in the nick of time with a sliding block.
Not only were Villa dominating possession, they kept the visitors at bay.
The best Rapid could manage was Yasin Pehlivan's lofted effort on the stroke of half-time.
However, when the Austrians' first opportunity came along, they were not about to waste it.
Nuhiu wiped out Villa's lead in the first leg and he did the same here with seven minutes gone in the second-half.
The giant striker scored with the deftest of touches in Vienna last Thursday, but his second-leg header from Veli Kavlak's right-wing cross was despatched with power and poise.
It didn't deter Villa, who were straight back on the front foot.
The crowd, in excess of 29,000, were at a loss to explain how Heskey's cross from the right wasn't converted when Sonnleitner's goalmouth clearance ricocheted off Nigel Reo-Coker and past the outstretched Young.
Claims for a penalty were inexplicably dismissed despite Markus Katzer clearly tugging at Young's shirt in the box.
But justice was done minutes later. It was an almost carbon copy incident, although this time Sonnleitner sent Heskey tumbling. Skipper Petrov assumed penalty duties, only for his kick to be pushed away by Hedl.
Villa continued to pepper the Rapid box and Heskey got a decisive touch with his chest to steer home a powerful left-foot volley from Habib Beye on 77 minutes.
The mood lifted around Villa Park again. The vociferous visiting supporters required a Rapid response and they got it with two goals in the space of three minutes.
The double blow not only swung the tie in their favour but also killed off Villa's hopes.
Sonnleitner made up for his earlier error by connecting with Steffen Hofmann's corner and Brad Guzan could not keep the defender's header out.
Three minutes later, with Villa pushing forward in search of a way back, Christopher Trimmel exploited space on the right hand side before crossing low for substitute Rene Gartler to tap home from close range.
VILLA: Guzan; Cuellar, Davies, Collins, Beye; Reo-Coker, Petrov, Ireland, A Young; Agbonlahor, Heskey. Subs: Friedel, Albrighton (for Agbonlahor 39), Delfouneso (for Reo-Coker 81), Lichaj, Bannan, Clark, Hogg.
RAPID VIENNA: Hedl, Sonnleitner, Heikkinen, Hofmann, Katzer, Nuhiu, Kavlak, Saurer, Soma, Dober, Pehilvan. Subs: Payer, Patocka (for Hofmann 90), Kulovits, Salihi, Gartler (for Pehilvan 78), Hinum, Trimmel (for Saurer 72).
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