Delfouneso keeps Villa dream alive
ASTON VILLA 2
Carew 16, Delfouneso 82
ONE down, four to go. Aston Villa left it late, but they did exactly what manager Martin O’Neill wanted.
The exotically-named Nathan Delfouneso was the man to score the winner that put Villa back in the top six and in the European places. O’Neill had said before this fixture that if they were to stand any chance of getting into Europe – he’s gone from “Champions League” just to “Europe” – they would have to win their five remaining games.
Not that he has given up entirely on catching fourth place because, mathematically at least, they are still in with a shout.
“We will need all the available points if we want to finish in the top six. We have some difficult fixtures coming up – Hull away on Wednesday – but to give ourselves a chance we have to win all of our games,” O’Neill said. “Everton are still there, Liverpool are obviously still there. The only thing we can do is win all our games.”
Portsmouth’s Michael Brown scored his side’s first goal for five league matches nine minutes into the match – and it was well worth the wait. Defender-cumwinger Anthony Vanden Borre did excellently to claw the ball back from the byline, Kevin-Prince Boateng dummied the ball past him for Brown to halfvolley home from 15 yards for his first of the season.
But it only took six minutes before John Carew brought the sides level, immediately after he had hit the post. The Norwegian ghosted in unmarked to collect Stephen Warnock’s punt upfield, as Marc Wilson seemed more concerned with appealing for offside – he wasn’t – before scoring from eight yards out.
But Boateng came close to restoring Portsmouth’s lead on the half-hour mark, but his curling free-kick from just outside the box was kept out by a onehanded Brad Friedel save.
Aston Villa had a penalty shout waved away 10 minutes before halftime when Vanden Borre put down Agbonlahor with what would have been a decent judo move. But referee Lee Probert blew his whistle, waited a couple of seconds for dramatic effect – before awarding a free-kick to Portsmouth.
Then, two minutes later, an even stranger thing happened. Carew was tripped in the box by Papa Bouba Diop as he dribbled the ball away from goal and Probert awarded a penalty. Shame for the enormous striker that it was kept out by an excellent James save.
The goalkeeper was lucky to get away with taking Stiliyan Petrov down but he could do nothing about Birmingham- born Villa academy product Delfouneso’s close-range shot with nine minutes left, as the 19-year-old substitute got on the end of Emile Heskey’s flick into the box.
For Portsmouth manager Avram Grant, the game was an exercise in damage limitation, as he had only 10 first team players to choose from.
Frederic Piquionne was stranded in France after the birth of his third child, which added to the massive list of Portsmouth absentees.
Portsmouth (4-5-1): James; Vanden Borre, Mokoena, Wilson, Sowah; Diop (Ritchie, 88), Yebda, Brown, Boateng (Ward, 80), Kanu (Smith 65); Utaka. Substitutes not used: Ashdown (gk), Pack, Ciftci.
Aston Villa (4-4-2): Friedel; Cuellar, Dunne, Collins, Warnock; Ashley Young, Milner, Petrov, Downing; Carew (Heskey, 72), Agbonlahor (Delfouneso, 80). Substitutes not used: Guzan (gk), Sidwell, Reo-Coker, Beye, Clark.
Referee: L Probert (Wiltshire).
Man of the match: Agbonlahor.