Derby 2:1 Aston Villa (10 Mar)
Francesco Baiano and Deon Burton ignited Derby's dreams of European football with two goals in
three first half minutes in the 2-1 win over Aston Villa at Pride Park. 

 But as the Rams moved into the top six, Villa began to slide out of Champions' League contention
 as they stretched their winless run to seven matches. 

 Stan Collymore returned to the Villa starting line up for the first time since January 2 but a lack of
 full match fitness prevented any cutting edge from the multi-million striker. 

 Villa goalkeeper Mark Bosnich also returned after 24 games as Michael Oakes' understudy only
 to find himself picking the ball out of his net twice in 21 minutes as Derby tore apart their

 Alan Thompson pulled one back for John Gregory's side in the dying moments of the first 45
 minutes but barely looked like taking the psychological advantage to its premium with only rare
 strike opportunities in the second period. 

 But Villa barely deserved to still be in the game at the break after failing to control any part of the

 Even Collymore failed to control his temper when he fouled Igor Stimac to earn a caution from
 referee Gary Willard - his only contribution in the first period. 

 And it was no surprise when Baiano opened the scoring for the home side in the 18th minute. 

 Defender Spencer Prior powered forward into the Villa area. The former Leicester man rolled a
 pass out to right from where Stefano Eranio crossed low first time. 

 Baiano was delighted to accept the glaring invite and drilled home first time past Australian

 Derby's Italians again combined for Derby's second goal three minutes later. 

 Eranio played the ball in low at the edge of the area where Baiano cleverly backheeled into the
 path of Burton. 

 The Jamaican international's strike was pure and deadly and Bosnich was left grasping at air. 

 Villa were looking shell-shocked and Burton should have added a third for the home side when
 makeshift central defender Dion Dublin slipped allowing Wanchope space to run into the Villa

 But from nowhere, Thompson gave John Gregory's side a priceless lifeline back into the game  with a terrific 20-yard strike in the 44th minute. 

 The impetus appeared to carry over as Villa dominated midfield but only a sole strike goalwards
 altered the match statistics when Gareth Barry's drive flew past Russell Hoult's right-hand post. 

 Derby took heart and Bosnich had to be at his best to deny Wanchope when he brilliantly turned
 away a header in the 57th minute and Stimac was equally unlucky to see his rebound hit the post. 

 On the hour, Bosnich was again the hero when he saved his legs from Wanchope after the striker
 had fed off Baiano's intelligent ball into the area. 

 Collymore finally found the net in the 72nd minute but his effort was ruled out for offside. 

 Villa boss John Gregory threw on Julian Joachim for Riccardo Scimeca in 77th minute as he tried
 to find the equaliser. 

 But it was Derby who should have clinched the game when Wanchope stooped low to meet
 Bohinen's corner but missed contact completely with Bosnich stranded. 

Martin Sivorn © 1999.E-Mail Me