Aston Villa moved to the brink of a place in the League Cup final with a 1-0 win at Blackburn.

England midfielder James Milner scored in the 23rd minute to give Villa victory in the first leg of their semifinal and a firm advantage ahead of next week’s return at Villa Park.

If Villa avoids defeat at home it will reach its first final for 10 years and meet Manchester City or Manchester United in the February 28 final.

Milner hit his seventh goal of the season after finishing a move he started.

With Blackburn pushing players forward to put Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan under pressure, Milner took a pass from defender James Collins and set off.

He passed out to Stewart Downing on the right wing, and the winger beat fullback Pascal Chimbonda to hit a cross into the area that beat former Spain defender Michel Salgado, and was dispatched with a powerful shot past goalkeeper Paul Robinson.

Blackburn replaced defender Lars Jacobsen at halftime and improved after being largely dominated for the first half.

Blackburn forward Nikola Kalinic twice hit the post, first with a shot from a cross and then from a touchline pass by Chimbonda, but Villa managed to stifle the home attack by reverting to a five-man midfield.

Blackburn must at least score at Villa Park to have any chance to reaching the final of a competition it won in 2002. Rovers have won just once and scored eight goals in 11 away games in the Premier League, in which it was 13th and trailed Villa by 14 points.

Villa won the League Cup most recently in 1996, outclassing Leeds 3-0 for its fifth win in the competition. Only Liverpool, with seven victories, has won the title more often.

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