Villa overcome desperate Pompey
Gabriel Agbonlahor struck for the third successive match to propel Aston Villa towards a fourth Barclays Premier League win on the trot, and pile on more misery for bottom-placed Portsmouth. Agbonlahor, overlooked by England coach Fabio Capello for the recent games with Slovenia and Croatia, netted the decisive second goal just before the interval.
Another 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ hopeful in James Milner had broken the deadlock from the penalty spot as Martin O'Neill's side cruised to 2-0 victory to sustain their early challenge for a European spot. Apart from a spell mid-way through the second half, Villa were seldom tested and the memory of their opening-day setback against Wigan Athletic is fast fading.
Agbonlahor is looking sharp and hungry in attack, while Milner continues to impress with his work-rate and commitment down the right flank. Central defender Richard Dunne has also added a presence to the Villa back four after his move from Manchester City.
But even at this early stage of the campaign Portsmouth look doomed to a lengthy battle against the drop after slumping to a sixth successive league reversal which leaves them still searching for their first point of the campaign. Only Kevin-Prince Boateng emerged with much credit for the visitors who look short of confidence.
Agbonlahor saw plenty of the ball during the early exchanges in a bright start by the home side, but it was Aaron Mokoena who inadvertently almost gifted Villa the lead after 11 minutes. Ashley Young whipped in a dangerous cross to the near post and Mokoena's flick header was turned over his own bar by David James in a fine reflex save.
Pompey started to come more into the game and created their first decent chance after 23 minutes. A corner from Boateng, his side's first of the game, was only half cleared and Michael Brown was able to swing a cross back into the box. Mokoena got up well at the far post and would have been disappointed to send his header over the bar.
Two goals arrive
After 33 minutes Milner broke the deadlock from the penalty spot. Portsmouth could have few complaints as Nadir Belhadj brought down Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov after his surging run into the box. Up stepped Milner and he powerfully drilled his spot-kick past James for his first league goal of the campaign.
Friedel made his first save after 39 minutes in parrying a low skidding drive from Jamie O'Hara. But two minutes before the interval Agbonlahor struck to double Villa's lead. Milner won the ball in the air and flicked it on to Agbonlahor who shrugged off the challenge of Tal Ben Haim before beating James.
The home side were soon back on the offensive and Carew mis-kicked when attempting to connect with a low cross from Agbonlahor. James produced a fine reflex save to turn aside a shot from Petrov after a free-kick from Young had been blocked by the Pompey defensive wall. Villa defender Carlos Cuellar became the first player to be yellow carded after 57 minutes for a challenge on Boateng.
Boateng then produced a stinging low drive that forced a good save out of Friedel away to his left. Portsmouth enjoyed their best spell of the game and Friedel was well positioned to keep out Fredric Piquionne's shot from 15 yards out.
O'Neill made his first substitution after 65 minutes with Carew replaced by Emile Heskey. Agbonlahor picked up a needless yellow card for a touch-line shove on Kaboul deep in the Portsmouth half.
James held on to a Cuellar header from a deep cross by Young before Hart made a double substitution with Kanu and Danny Webber replaced by Tommy Smith and Piquionne. Heskey needed treatment after being fouled by Ben Haim, but limped out of the action to be replaced by Fabian Delph.