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Horncastle: The end of the "Rafalution"?

Serie A about an hour ago
Read
 Posted by ESPN Staff
Sep 20, 2006

'Carling Cup is our gateway to Europe' - O'Neill

Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill described the Carling Cup as a 'gateway' to European football after selecting his strongest side against Scunthorpe and watching Juan Pablo Angel fire them into the third round.

Angel struck in either half at Glanford Park as new Villa chairman Randy Lerner looked on from the stands, although the visitors were forced to hold on after Billy Sharp pulled a goal back late on.

O'Neill resisted the temptation to field a weakened team - only injury-prone Martin Laursen was rested - for the tie in the competition he has enjoyed previous success in as a player and manager.

'We have a chance, as every single team does, of getting into European football, it's a gateway,' said O'Neill.

'It's a million miles away at this minute, but you might as well go in strong.

'At this minute, it is important for us to go as strong as we can, just keep confidence going.'

Villa, who are still unbeaten this season, withstood early pressure from the hosts and took the lead just before the break when Angel followed up his own penalty, which was saved by goalkeeper Joe Murphy after Luke Moore was hauled down by Richard Hinds.

Colombia striker Angel headed home powerfully from an Aaron Hughes cross after 63 minutes for his second, with O'Neill adding: 'He did very well so I'm particularly pleased, as I am with the other players.

'To get through was important at this minute, and we're keeping momentum going. If we had lost, it would have knocked confidence a bit - confidence can be brittle in football.'

Although Villa hit the woodwork through Angel, Steven Davis, Gareth Barry and Hinds almost scoring an own goal, the hosts were impressive going forward, with Sharp and Andy Keogh particularly impressive.

Sharp headed in from a corner after 73 minutes but Scunthorpe could not find the equaliser to send the game into extra-time.

'We knew it would be difficult and so it proved,' said O'Neill, who had to take off Gavin McCann with a calf injury. 'I'm delighted we've won and we're through.

'I'm remarkably calm and saying everything is fine and if it continues to happen in four or five weeks I'll probably go ballistic - but we're creating chances even if we weren't able to capitalise.

'But I suppose you can't complain if you are making chances, and make them we did.'

Scunthorpe boss Brian Laws was delighted with his side's application, adding: 'We really stretched them. There's a fair few million pounds worth of talent out there but credit to our lads, we played to the best of out ability.

'We don't give up, they keep going, the crowd got behind them and I thought the response was positive.

'We wanted to get the ball but the quality final pass let us down and that's just naivety, but they will become better players.

'We've given it our best shot but, as all managers say at this time, we'll concentrate on the league.'