Birmingham: Aston Villa's UEFA Cup hopes were left hanging by a thread after losing 3-2 at home to Croatian side NK Varteks in their first round first leg clash. Two second-half goals from Villa striker Juan Pablo Angel hauled John Gregory's side back into the match after twice going behind, but Croat striker Sasa Bjelanovic grabbed his second of the night to steal a win for and crucial away points for Varteks. The initial spurt by Villa saw the Varteks keeper Danijel Madaric having a tough time but he managed to keep the ball out every time. And it was Varteks who scored first. Some slick passing saw Mukaj hand it over to Bjelanovic who sent the ball through keeper Peter Schmeichel's legs. Villa did level the scores in the 54th minute with Juan Pablo Angel doing the honours from close range. Villa was not on level terms for long. Varteks regained the lead after 63 minutes with a second away goal Zoran Kastel passed and Veldin Karic left-footed it in. But it was Angel again who provided the leveller for Villa in the 69th minute this time putting his head to good use, capitalising on Kachloul's curling cross. Villa's exultation, however, turned to despair shortly when Sasa Bjelanovic scored Varteks' third in the 86th minute. Celta beat Sigma Two goals from Celta Vigo skipper Valeri Karpin, a penalty from Brazilian striker Catanha and another goal from his compatriot Edu gave the Spanish league leaders a 4-0 home win over Sigma Olomouc of the Czech Republic in the first leg of the opening round of the UEFA Cup. In the 41st minute Celta skipper Valeri Karpin flicked Pablo Coira's cross in. Celta's joy did not please Sigma and when Sergio got to the goal side of Radek Spilacek because of Manolo Berizzo's through ball, the Sigma player pulled him back and got a yellow card in exchange. And it was the Brazilian striker Catanha who capitalised on the foul to make it 2-0. Celta's Croatian midfielder Boban subsequently caused panic in the Sigma defence trying to find Catanha, and the ball fell invitingly for his fellow South American Edu to stroke home 3-0 and all hopes for Sigma were lost. Catanha was again involved in the dying seconds for Celta's coup de grace. His precise pass split the Sigma centre halves and Karpin nipped in to slip the ball past Vaniak making it 4-0 at the end.
Topics : Football