Aston Villa cheerfully waved goodbye to the Intertoto Cup having netted one victory and keeping their fingers crossed another will come their way as well.
Ashley Young's sensational second-half effort secured an aggregate win over
Odense and a place in next month's UEFA Cup final qualifying round.
But the real spin-off for Martin O'Neill could revolve around Gareth Barry,
whose introduction for stricken midfielder Wilfred Bouma went far better than
the Northern Irishman had hoped, the cordial relationship between player and
supporters fuelling belief that Villa will thwart Liverpool in their attempts to
sign the England star.
At one stage this summer it seemed impossible that Barry would ever wear the
famous claret and blue again.
Criticising your manager in a newspaper article is generally not viewed as a
way of getting on and the subsequent fine and ban from Villa's training ground
seemed to cement his exit.
But as time has gone on, with Liverpool no nearer reaching Barry's £18million
asking price, it has been time to think the unthinkable.
A venomous reception from his own supporters at Walsall did not prevent Barry
being named on the bench by Martin O'Neill for such a crucial game as this and
once Bouma had suffered his horrific injury, the England international was the
obvious man to call upon.
If the 27-year-old waited to make his entrance with some trepidation, he did
not have to worry as he was afforded the kind of standing ovation Bouma had
received moments earlier.
It was immediately obvious the Dutchman had suffered a major problem as he flew
into a tackle with Baye Djiby Fall.
As he held his right leg in the air, his foot was skewed horribly, in a similar
manner to injuries which Alan Smith and more recently, Arsenal's Eduardo have
Early indications are that Bouma has suffered a dislocation rather than a break
but Villa will want to check for ligament damage as well before stating how long
they expect the midfielder to be out.
Although the injury did not exactly rock Villa out of their stride, it did not
The make-up of the Intertoto competition meant the midlands side were facing a
tougher test than they could expect to face in the UEFA Cup if they got through
and Odense did not disappoint.
Level thanks to an injury-time equaliser on home soil last week, the Danes
could easily have been ahead when Villa failed to track Fall's burst forward,
which Henrik Hansen picked out with an excellent long ball.
Stuart Taylor - soon to be deposed by the arrival of Brad Friedel - flew out of
his goal but Fall's deft shot appeared to be heading in, only for it to bounce
away off a post, much to the Senegal-born striker's disbelief.
Villa did create a succession of half-chances, with the pace of Young and
Gabriel Agbonlahor causing Odense problems. But it was not until the second half
that the hosts finally got into their stride.
Young had already presented Zat Knight with the chance that saw Arek Onyszko
deny the big central defender with an excellent point-blank save when he carved
out the opportunity for himself to which the Odense keeper had no answer.
Inadvisably shown inside by substitute Espen Ruud, Young sprinted for the
Odense box, then unleashed a powerful shot which flew into the top corner before
Onyszko had a chance to move.
The goal relieved growing tension and suddenly Villa were alive, with Steve
Sidwell in particular transformed.
Sidwell went close twice himself and set up Agbonlahor for a shot which ended
up just over the Odense bar.
Young was the architect though when John Carew saw his header crash down off
the underside of the bar, Onyszko shovelling away the rebound before Sidwell
could bundle home.
Carew was similarly frustrated when Onyszko parried Sidwell's well-struck
effort from 20 yards, although by then, Odense had virtually given up.
Barry's positive reaction to the requests of Villa fans for a wave in their
direction merely continued an unexpected love-in which may reward O'Neill very