Aston Villa 1 FH Hafnarfjordur 1 <i>(Villa win 5-2 on agg)</i>: Gardner gives experimental Villa smooth passage

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The Independent Football

Aston Villa cruised into the first round proper of the Uefa Cup last night, the hard work having being done a fortnight ago in Iceland. Craig Gardner did give the hosts a first-half lead but Hafnarfjordur drew some comfort by salvaging a draw on the night with Atli Vldar Bjornsson's strike before the game petered out. Villa's manager, Martin O'Neill, decided to hand a first start to the former Tottenham midfielder Wayne Routledge, who joined the club during the January transfer window.

Villa were soon into their stride and created a decent opening within the first 60 seconds. A fine crossfield ball from Moustapha Salifou picked out the run of Routledge, who shot high and wide.

But it was the Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel who had to make the first meaningful save after nine minutes when he parried a fierce shot on the turn from Matthias Gudmundsson at the expense of a corner. Then Routledge curled a 20-yard effort inches wide after a dummy by Gardner had created pace for the shot.

There was certainly plenty of purpose about Villa's play, despite their healthy advantage, with Salifou and Routledge impressing on their full debuts.

And after 27 minutes Villa's almost non-stop attacking paid off with Gardner breaking the deadlock. Curtis Davies released Marlon Harewood, who was able to turn and cut a right-wing cross back into the path of Gardner, who made no mistake with a rising 15-yard drive. Routledge should have doubled the lead but his control let him down.

Then after 30 minutes Hafnarfjordur surprised Villa. Friedel could only parry a right-wing centre from Matthias Gudmundsson which fell invitingly to Bjornsson, who had time to line up a shot before firing home. Salifou could have restored Villa's lead just before the interval but he screwed his shot across the face of goal.

O'Neill felt his team could do much better. "We were in a great position to start with," he said. "We did enough to get through in the tie, but I believe we could improve immensely on that performance."

Routledge added: "It was a tricky game. We are pleased to be through but, with the squad we have, we should look to go quite far in this competition."

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Friedel; Gardner, Knight, Davies, Barry; Routledge, Reo-Coker, Osbourne, Salifou; Agbonlahor (Delfouneso, 62), Harewood. Substitutes not used: Taylor, Laursen, Ashley Young, Carew, Petrov, Baker.

FH Hafnarfjordur (4-4-2): Oskarsson; Asgeirsson, Nielsen, Siim, Valgardsson; Vihjalmsson, Vidarsson, Bjorn Sverrisson (Gardarsson, 84), Matthias Gudmundsson; Bjornsson (Gudnason, 58), Tryggvi Gudmundsson (Saevarsson, 82). Substitutes not used: Larusson, Eiriksson, Bjarnason, Birkir Sverrisson.

Referee: B Kuipers (Netherlands).