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The BBC's Dave Woods
"The England midfielder was an impressive sight"
 real 28k

Sunday, 6 February, 2000, 11:04 GMT
Merson magic sparks Villa romp

Stone Villa midfielder Steve Stone's delight is shared with his teammates


Aston Villa 4-0 Watford

Paul Merson helped Aston Villa shrug off the disappointment of their Worthington Cup semi-final defeat by cracking two stunning goals to help destroy bottom club Watford.

The former Arsenal striker, who was left bloodied and battered in a sickening clash of heads with Leeds' Michael Duberry last week, showed no signs of any ill-effects.


Match facts
47: Stone scores after a goalless first half
57: Merson mark one - a solo run and chip
59: Merson mark two - an overhead volley
81: Walker comes off the bench to claim number four
After Steve Stone had put the home side ahead, Merson lit up Villa Park with a sensational two-minute burst of individual brilliance.

First he made it 2-0 with a solo run and perfect chip - but while the crowd were still catching their breath he matched that effort with another stunning goal, smacking an acrobatic volley past helpless Watford keeper Chris Day.

It was a miserable return for former Villa boss Graham Taylor, who has all but accepted defeat in his side's forlorn battle to fight off relegation.

Taylor - back at Villa Park for the first time as a manager since leaving for the England job in 1990 - was given a standing ovation by the Midlands faithful.

His smile did not last long past half-time, though, as three goals in the first 14 minutes of the second half took Villa home.

Sluggish start

Workmanlike Villa dominated the first half, without ever looking like beating Day.

But after the break they were suddenly transformed into a Claret and Blue version of Brazil.

Stone opened the scoring from a sweeping move, sliding in to convert Benito Carbone's low cross after the Italian had been released by a quick throw from George Boateng.

Watford had a rare chance in the 56th minute, but Heidar Helguson could not exploit a defensive mistake and blasted over the bar.

That proved the precursor for the start of the Paul Merson show.

The England international collected the ball on the half-way line, waltzed through the Watford defence and - just when he looked to have hung onto it for too long - lifted a wonderful chip over Day and into the net.

Two minutes later Merson completed the encore. Carbone crossed from the right, Alan Wright headed the ball into the danger zone and Merson chested it, before lashing an overhead kick past the despairing Day.

Villa substitute Richard Walker completed the rout when he headed home Wright's 81st minute cross.

Teams:

Aston Villa: James, Ehiogu, Calderwood, Barry, Delaney, Stone, Boateng, Merson, Wright, Joachim, Carbone. Subs: Watson, Hendrie, Walker, Samuel, Cutler.

Watford: Day, Gibbs, Page, Palmer, Cox, Hyde, Bonnot, Easton, Robinson, Smith, Helguson. Subs: Chamberlain, Lyttle, Kennedy, Smart, Wooter.

Referee: P Jones (Loughborough)

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