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History repeats itself for Villa
Aston Villa crashed out of the Europa League at the final qualifying hurdle against Rapid Vienna for the second successive season despite twice being in front - losing 3-2 on the night.

It was a big financial blow for the midlands club and also weakened caretaker boss Kevin MacDonald's chances of being given the job on a permanent basis.

Gabriel Agbonlahor and Emile Heskey netted for Villa but Rapid refused to buckle and goals from Atdhe Nuhiu, Mario Sonnleitner and Rene Gartler stunned the near 30,000 crowd.

The hundreds of Rapid fans held up a `your nightmare returns' banner before kick-off - a reminder to Villa of their victory at the same ground 12 months ago - and it rang true.

Villa made a promising start in the driving rain and swirling wind and Agbonlahor came close to breaking the deadlock after 60 seconds.

Ashley Young threaded a pass through to Agbonlahor whose left footed shot was well struck. But Rapid keeper Raimund Hedl was equal to the task and held onto the low drive at full stretch.

The Rapid fans were making their presence felt with a constant barrage of noise but James Collins almost silenced them after 17 minutes.

Young's perfectly flighted corner picked out the Welsh international but his header flew just wide.

Hedl then parried away a dipping Young free-kick and Collins had a close range effort blocked.

After 22 minutes Villa made their supremacy count with Agbonlahor's first goal of the season.

The impressive Young was the provider with a teasing low ball across the box and Agbonlahor made no mistake from close range.

It needed a fine tackle from Markus Heikkinen to deny Stephen Ireland as he prepared to shoot.

Agbonlahor tried to continue after suffering a knock to his leg and he was replaced after 40 minutes by Marc Albrighton.

Albrighton quickly made his presence felt with a powerful run which took him past three challenges before he drilled his eventual shot just wide.

But after 52 minutes Villa were stunned when Nuhiu brought Rapid back level on aggregate at 2-2.

Beye lost possession on the left flank and was then turned past by Veli Kavlak.

His eventual cross was headed home at the near post in powerful fashion by Nuhiu who had also netted in the first leg a week ago.

Villa came close to regaining the lead after 61 minutes.

Heskey's cross was diverted into the path of Young and the ball rebounded off him and inches wide of the far post.

Collins was just wide with a header from Albrighton's centre but the contest was now more evenly matched.

Villa had strong claims for a penalty rejected when Young appeared to be brought down by Markus Katzer.

Referee Eric Braamhaar pointed to the spot when Heskey was fouled by Sonnleitner after 72 minutes.

But skipper Stiliyan Petrov's spot-kick was saved to his right by Hedl before Heskey wasted the rebound.

Villa regained the lead after 76 minutes when Heskey chested home a volley from Habib Beye.

But the home side were stunned as Rapid struck twice in the space of three minutes.

First Guzan could only parry a header from Sonnleitner which still contained enough power to cross the line.

Then in the 81st minute substitute Gartler converted a low centre from Christopher Trimmel.

# MacDonald: Job comes second

Caretaker boss Kevin MacDonald admitted Aston Villa's Europe League exit ''may have an influence'' on whether he lands the post on a permanent basis. But MacDonald insists his immediate priority is to try to lift the players.

When asked if losing was a major blow to his hopes of securing the post, MacDonald said: ''It may have an influence. But I must stress it is the media who have put me up as first choice.

''I have never been told I was first choice and expect nothing to change until after the game on Sunday. It is a big blow for Aston Villa to go out of Europe again. A lot of the lads were disappointed to go out last season. It is a major blow for them. They are professional footballers and proud of what they do.

''My own position is not uppermost in my thoughts 10 minutes after a game. It is not about me but how the players and the football club react on Sunday.''

MacDonald admitted Villa paid the penalty for silly mistakes as Rapid repeated last season's success in knocking out Villa at the same hurdle.

He said: ''I am very disappointed. We were in total control at 1-0 and gave away a silly equaliser. We also missed a penalty and gave away a silly third goal. We made three silly mistakes and we are out of the tournament.

''You can't legislate for individual mistakes from international players. But as a group we score goals and we will accept responsibility for mistakes as a group as well.''

Vienna coach Peter Pacult described the victory as one of the best of his career.

He said: ''It feels great to beat Villa for the second year running. It is the most emotional success I have had as a manager. I was actually disappointed with the draw because it meant we had to beat a Premier League side again.

''But we produced a top-class performance, an international performance, and I am delighted with the results.''
 
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