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Page last updated at 20:47 GMT, Thursday, 2 October 2008 21:47 UK

Aston Villa 1-1 Litex Lov'h (4-2)

Marlon Harewood celebrates scoring Villa's first goal
Harewood scored his first goal of the season

Aston Villa booked their place in the Uefa Cup group stages after a draw against Litex Lovech.

Marlon Harewood put the home side ahead on 27 minutes with a smart finish from 12 yards after a powerful run.

But Wilfried Niflore brought Lovech level when he converted a penalty on 52 minutes after Carlos Cuellar had been penalised for a foul on Wellington.

The equaliser had little effect as the Bulgarian visitors failed to trouble Villa's obdurate defence.

With the cushion of a 3-1 advantage from the first leg, manager Martin O'Neill opted to rest six of his starting XI from the 2-1 win over Sunderland, with one eye on the Premier League match against leaders Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Gabriel Agbonlahor, Gareth Barry, Nigel Reo-Coker, Martin Laursen, John Carew and Curtis Davies were all rested, with record signing James Milner, Harewood, Zat Knight, Carlos Cuellar, Moustapha Salifou and Wayne Routledge earning starting places.

And it was the much-maligned Harewood who put Villa 1-0 up with a quality finish.

The striker received the ball 30 yards out from Ashley Young and took on the Bulgarian defenders before unleashing a powerful 12-yard strike past goalkeeper Todor Todorov.

Despite their three-goal aggregate deficit, Lovech continued to play neat, attractive football - but failed to create any significant goal-scoring chances.

Villa's Bulgaria international Stiliyan Petrov - handed the captain's armband in Laursen's absence - headed just over the bar from 12 yards with the last chance of the first half.


But the visitors regained parity after referee Tony Chapron pointed to the penalty spot when Carlos Cuellar was adjudged to have brought down Wellington da Silva inside the box.

Frenchman Niflore stepped up and slotted the ball past Brad Friedel to give the visitors a glimmer of hope.

But despite their early second-half fillip, Lovech failed to conjure any further goal-scoring opportunities as Villa took control of the final half hour.

And Young, so impressive for Villa this season, had the final opportunity to give Villa victory, but the striker sent his 20-yard free-kick over the bar on 81 minutes.

Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill:
"I couldn't be more delighted, especially for the supporters, who can look forward to European evenings at Villa Park.

"All the work we have put in since July has paid dividends. Playing European football has an edge, it's a great thing for the young players."

"Everybody seems to be OK (ahead of the Premier League game against Chelsea on Sunday), there are a couple of knocks and bruises but no-one is complaining."

Aston Villa: Friedel, Young, Knight, Cuellar, Shorey, Routledge, Petrov, Salifou, Young (Osbourne 85), Harewood, Milner.
Subs not used: Guzan, Laursen, Agbonlahor, Delfouneso, Reo-Coker, Gardner.

Goals: Harewood 27.

Litex Lovech: Todorov, Manolev, Popov (Dos Santos 85), Zanev, Barthe, Berberovic, Nikolov, Wellington (Angelov 78), Dudu (Tsvetanov 46), Sandrinho, Niflore.Subs not used: Golubovic, Acedo, Bibishkov, Tsvetkov.

Booked: Popov, Zanev.

Goals: Niflore pen 53.

Att: 27,230

Ref: Tony Chapron.

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Villa's Ashley Young with 7.24 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.
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see also
Uefa Cup as it happened
02 Oct 08 |  Europe
Litex Lovech 1-3 Aston Villa
18 Sep 08 |  Europe
Uefa Cup photos
02 Oct 08 |  Football
Hero or zero?
27 Aug 08 |  Europe

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