Villa U19 1-0 Olympiacos U19: Burke on target to book semi berth
Villa U19s will now jet off to the holiday retreat of Madonna, George Clooney, Ronaldinho, Sylvester Stallone and Richard Branson after seeing off gritty Olympiacos in the quarter-finals of the Next Gen Series.
Graham Burke, lively all night, fired home the only goal of the game in the first-half at Villa Park to seal the claret and blues passage to the last four of the prestigious tournament.
Tony McAndrew's aspiring young team brilliantly booked their place in the finals weekend, being held in the artistic and culturally-rich Lake Como in Italy between March 29 and April 1.
The semi-finals and final will be played over one weekend in the Como Calcio's Stadio Giuseppe Sinigaglia - and Villa will be there.
It was following an engaging and interesting tussle with the Greek outfit, who were backed by a one-hundred strong fanbase in B6.
Villa were good value for their first-half lead, producing some fine football.
Ironically, the first real action saw the opening goal fly into the net, Burke firing home on the volley delightfully from just inside the box.
Fans from both teams applauded Stan Petrov on 19 minutes in a warm gesture on a bitterly cold night.
Villa almost doubled their lead just before the half-hour mark. Samir Carruthers fired his shot weakly into the wall from 20 yards but the ball fell kindly to Josh Barton.
Barton fired wickedly towards the far post but Eleftherids Choutesiotis flew across his goal to save.
The ever-lively Callum Robinson then fired straight at the keeper before Olympiacos created their first effort of the game.
Dimitrious Siopis shot on the turn but Brad Watkins produced a fine one-handed save to keep the ball out.
On the stroke of half-time, Choutesiotis was again called into action, saving well from Robinson who had been unselfishly laid-in by the effervescent Jack Grealish.
Olympiacos came out strongly after the break and made the early running.
Nikolaos Ionnidis first fired high and handsome before pulling a shot agonisingly wide soon after the restart.
Carruthers, a constant menace in the opposition backline, was booked for diving in the box before Klodian Gino smashed a shot against the post, giving the home side a lucky let-off.
Carruthers gave the ball away sloppily just past the hour mark, letting in Ionnidis once again, but for a second time, the tall striker shot just wide of the upright.
After that moment, McAndrew's men sprang into life once again, creating a plethora of chances.
Grealish smashed a shot against the post, with the keeper lucky to see the ball fly back into his arms on the rebound.
Then Carruthers saw a howitzer of a strike brilliantly palmed away by the keeper before Brad Lewis watched as his subsequent header was also saved smartly.
Villa could and should have doubled their advantage with just fifteen minutes remaining but once again the goalkeeper did superbly to keep out a fierce Grealish header.
Robinson and Burke were both foiled by the keeper with four minutes remaining as Villa looked to put the tie to bed.
But Olympiacos almost sent the game to extra-time in the final minute, Leandro Climacci Pinto firing goalwards from 30 yards out. Thankfully willing Watkins moved swiftly to his right to tip the ball to safety.
That was all she wrote as the young lions celebrated enthusiastically about their semi-final berth as the ref blew loudly on his whistle to signal the end of an enthralling game.
VILLA U19: Watkins, Webb, Kinsella, Lyden, Donacien, Lewis [Bateman, 81], Barton, Carruthers, Robinson, Burke, Grealish. Subs not used: Grant, Calder, Crooks, Khalid, Cowans, O'Brien.
OLYMPIACOS: Choutesiotis, Karagkounis, Lykogiannis, Rougkalas, Pinto, Siopis [Paidakis, 72], Voutsiotis [Papasavas, HT], Ioannidis [Soukias, 88], Gino [Vergos, 71], Lyras [Pasalidis, 71]. Subs not used: Vouros, Vlachos.
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