RECAP: EUROPA LEAGUE ACTION
Jozy Altidore started at forward and played 72 minutes for Villarreal in their win in Mogilev while Brad Guzan was between the posts as Aston Villa felt a sense of deja vu with their loss to Rapid Vienna.
Aston Villa 2 - 3 Rapid Vienna (agg. 3-4)
Brad Guzan went the distance in goal in Villa Park on Thursday night as Austrian team Rapid Vienna twice came back from a goal down to reach the Europa League group stage at Villa's expense in front of a crowd of disappointed supporters for the second straight season.
Brad Freidel and Eric Lichaj were both uniform, however watched the travesty unfold from the bench.
Villa only needed a scoreless draw or any victory to assure a place in the group stage, however early-season turmoil at the club stemming from their unexpected coaching change and lopsided league loss over the weekend clearly took its toll on the team's focus.
The hosts came out with a clear intent to avoid last year's collapse at the same stage, staying on the attack and having several scoring chances come close largely thanks to the play of winger Ashley Young.
The English international was a key player in Villa's opening goal after 22 minutes, one-timing a pass from new Villan Stephen Ireland from the right side into the six-yard box, just in the right position for Gabriel Agbonlahor to slide in for the score.
Interim coach Kevin MacDonald's team suffered two setbacks on either side of the intermission, the first being the departure from the game of the injured Agbonlahor, then an equalizer by Rapid in the 52nd minute.
Villa were caught unprepared for a Rapid attack shortly after Abonglahor's replacement Marc Albrighton just missed out on a second goal for the home team, with Veli Kavlak sending in a cross at the opposite end of the field for Atdhe Nuhiu to head in to bring matters even.
Former English international Emile Heskey earned Villa a penalty in the 72nd minute as he was pushed over in the area by Mario Sonnleitner, however Stiliyan Petrov's spot kick was blocked by keeper Raimund Hedl, and Heskey inexplicably missed the followup shot on a wide open net.
Heskey atoned somewhat for his mistake five minutes later when he redirected a hard pass from Habib Beye into the net off his own stomach, however Vienna even the score - and took the advantage on away goals - barely one minute later as Sonnleitner headed home a corner from Stefan Hoffmann.
Needing to win the game outright to avoid a second straight knockout blow at the hands of the Austrians, Villa saw their hopes crushed with eight minutes remaining in regulation as substitute Rene Gartler poked in a cross from Christoper Trimmel for the winner.
With their European campaign once again too quickly a thing of the past, Guzan will return to the bench as Friedel takes center stage in Villa's goal for their Premier League campaign, beginning with Sunday's home game against Everton.
Dnepr Mogilev 1 - 2 Villarreal (agg. 1-7)
Jozy Altidore got the start up top alongside Brazilian Nilmar in a young Villarreal squad as the Yellow Submarine came back from one goal down to score a comfortable victory in Dnepr Mogilev's Spartak Stadion.
With Nilmar's usual strike partner Guiseppe Rossi left in Spain to rest up for their league opener, Altidore was chosen by head coach Juan Carlos Garrido to lead the charge.
Dnepr looked set to avoid an embarrassing blowout in front of their home crowd from the beginning, and took the lead after 20 minutes when local hero Vladimir Yurchenko got behind the Villarreal defense on a long ball, and had no problems to beat keeper Juan Carlos for the lead.
Nilmar showed his quality in evening the score on the stroke of halftime, being the beneficiary of a perfectly-weighted pass from Cristobal, which he turned into goal for the 1-1 equalizer.
Cristobal was sent to the showers early in the 69th minute for picking up his second yellow card of the game, and Altidore, who had several times failed to find the target with good chances, was sacrificed for midfielder Cani three minutes later.
The man-disadvantage did little to shift the game towards the hosts' favor, with substitute Marco Ruben giving the Yellow Submarine the win - and overall 7-1 aggregate advantage - by knocking in the rebound from a Jefferson Montero shot in the final moments before the whistle.
Altidore and his teammates will await the result of Friday afternoon's draw to find out their group stage fate. The team will next face promoted Real Sociedad on Sunday afternoon in their La Liga season opener.
Dominic Cervi watched from the bench as Celtic were brutally kicked out of European competition for the season thanks to a crushing 4-0 loss at Utrecht, giving the Dutch team a shocking 4-2 aggregate win and passage to the group stage.
Freddy Adu took no part in FC Aris' 1-1 second-leg draw at Austria Vienna, giving the Greek team an overall 2-1 aggregate win.