By Claire Boden in Portugal
Villa's Guadiana Cup campaign got off to a winning start with a 3-1 victory over Feyenoord.
Goals from Marc Albrighton, Emile Heskey and Steve Sidwell sealed a deserved win over the Dutch outfit on Saturday evening.
Martin O'Neill will now be hoping for a victory over Benfica in the final showdown to end their Portuguese adventure on a high.
It was an excellent performance from the boys in claret and blue and sets up tomorrow's game nicely for the title of 2010 Guadiana Cup champions.
On an extremely humid night on the Algarve, O'Neill's side found themselves a goal up after four minutes through Albrighton. The Tamworth-born midfielder picked the ball up 25 yards from goal and unleashed a thunderbolt shot.
The Feyenoord custodian stood no chance as the orange Jabulani ball flew into the top left-hand corner.
The perfect start ignited confidence throughout the team and Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young combined well outside the penalty area to set up Nigel Reo-Coker.
The midfielder teed up his shot, but the Dutch defence blocked the incoming effort.
On 10 minutes, the claret and blues gaffer came to the touchline but not to give orders to his troops - it was to let the nearby cameraman aware he was blocking his view.
The manager did not miss Stephen Warnock's superb tackle to deny dangerman Gini Wijnaldam the opportunity to run on goal. The tricky right winger, who has reportedly attracted interest from a host of Premier League clubs, was proving to be a thorn in the side for the Villa defence.
Indeed, the midfielder had a hand in setting up Feyenoord's equaliser on 14 minutes. Neat interplay between Wijnaldum and Ron Vlaar set up Luc Castaignos, who stroked the ball home past Brad Guzan at the near post.
The goal did not rattle Villa and Young went agonisingly close following a delicious cross from Stewart Downing. The wing wizard failed to connect with a header and the chance went begging.
Again, Young was at the fulcrum of all Villa's good work. This time a curling 20-yard free-kick was punched away by the Feyenoord custodian.
The Dutch outfit, who finished fourth in the Eredivisie, ended the first period strongly with only the woodwork denying them taking the lead. Wijnaldum hit the post with a low shot, the ball ricocheting off the post and Castaignos smashing the rebound into the side-netting.
The restart saw O'Neill make six changes - in line with his vow to use every available player for the two Guadiana Cup matches. Villa stepped up a gear shortly before the hour mark.
Another Young free-kick tested the reflexes of Erwuin Van Dijk, who punched the ball away for a corner.
Albrighton's promising pre-season was continuing and the young midfielder showed a number of excellent turns and accurate final deliveries into the danger areas - definitely giving the Villa boss food for thought.
On 67 minutes, Feyenoord almost took the lead, but Kelvin Leerdam fluffed his lines from point-blank range and the ball went safely for a goal kick.
On his return from the World Cup, Heskey put Villa into a deserved lead on 73 minutes.
Following Young's free-kick, Feyenoord did not clear the danger and the striker headed the ball home from Albrighton's accurate centre from 10 yards out.
Villa extended the lead through substitute Steve Sidwell on 79 minutes - and what a goal it was. The midfielder picked the ball up from Albrighton's short corner and unleashed a piledriver of a shot from 25 yards leaving the keeper with no chance.
In the dying moments Brad Guzan produced a great save to deny Feyenoord clawing a goal back.
After the final whistle a penalty shoot-out took place - a rule of the Guadiana Cup.
Villa drew - YES drew - the shoot-out 4-4 with John Carew, Barry Bannan, Sidwell and Nicky Shorey scoring the goals.
VILLA: Guzan, Beye (Lichaj 46), Cuellar (Clarke 79), Dunne (Davies 46), Warnock (Shorey 46), Petrov (Bannan 79), Reo-Coker (Sidwell 46), Downing (Heskey 46), Albrighton, Young (Delfouneso 76), Agbonlahor (Carew 46) Subs not used: Friedel, Weimann.