Aston Villa 1 Portsmouth 3: Redknapp incensed despite Muntari's moments of magic

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The Independent Online

In one respect it was a fitting gesture. Raising three fingers in response to the verbal abuse being aimed in his direction, Harry Redknapp produced a defiant variation on the Churchillian salute. One digit for every goal scored and for each point gained as his team swept aside Aston Villa to register a victory that takes them to fifth place in the Premier League heights they last touched in the post-war years when Pompey were in their pomp and Winston Churchill was still Prime Minister.

A fluke of an own goal by Craig Gardner and two sweet left-foot strikes by Sulley Muntari earned Redknapp's purring Portsmouth side their sixth successive win on the road and their first at Villa Park since 1970. Not that it was an entirely palatable occasion for their manager.

From the early stages, the Villa fans had been taunting Redknapp about his arrest and questioning relating to police enquiries about alleged corruption in football "Redknapp's paid the ref", "Redknapp's going down". In the 68th minute, the Portsmouth manager turned and made his gesture to those directly behind his dug-out.

"You've got people stood behind you at football matches with kids, shouting filth," he said later. "I didn't bring my kids up to talk like that. Do we have to keep standing accepting that? It didn't happen when I was a kid going to watch Arsenal play with my dad every Saturday. We stood with the away fans. We'd have a cup of tea with them.

"Maybe I shouldn't get upset, but when I turn round and see someone there with a little boy and they're shouting out and making filthy gestures... that hurts more than anything. I just think it stinks. They should be ashamed as a parent to do that in front of their kids. I've never sworn in front of my kids in my life.

"It happens everywhere. At Chelsea the other week a guy ran 40 yards to our coach he had his little boy with him and he dropped his trousers and his pants and bent over in front of the coach. It does my head in; I'm sorry. You've got to take that..."

What the Villains of the piece yesterday could not take was their team being outclassed by Redknapp's, and Martin O'Neill's subdued side shooting themselves in the foot along the way. The opening Portsmouth goal, after eight minutes, was a giveaway of Keystone Cops dimensions Wilfred Bouma deflecting a wayward shot by Sylvain Distin into the Villa goalmouth, where Gardner poked it past Scott Carson with Benjani Mwaruwari preparing to pounce.

The claret and blues did have a fleeting purplish patch midway through the first half. They ought to have levelled but Martin Laursen steered a header wide with David James beaten and the Portsmouth goal at his mercy.

At the other end Carson faced the threat of Niko Kranjcar his Wembley tormentor of three weeks ago when the England goalkeeper let the Croatia midfielder's shot bounce in for an embarrassing goal but it was the left foot of Muntari that did the decisive damage to his team yesterday.

Five minutes before the interval the Ghanaian midfielder cut in from the right and curled a peach of a shot into the top left corner.

Just past the hour mark he struck again, dispossessing Nigel Reo-Coker some 45 yards from goal, nutmegging Zat Knight and rifling a swerving shot past Carson from 25 yards.

Villa did manage to get on the scoresheet, Gareth Barry burying a 72nd-minute penalty after a Distin trip on Ashley Young. It was a consolation they barely deserved.

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