O'Leary praise as Thomas hitz the target

Portsmouth 1 - Aston Villa 2
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The Independent Online

Delighted David O'Leary praised Thomas Hitzlsperger's stunning late winner which earned Aston Villa a 2-1 win at Portsmouth.

Delighted David O'Leary praised Thomas Hitzlsperger's stunning late winner which earned Aston Villa a 2-1 win at Portsmouth.

The victory was Villa's first away success since beating Bolton on November 13, when the German also netted a timely winner in the final seconds.

O'Leary said: "To be honest he is not the greatest goalscorer in the world, he's got eight in 91 (league) games but when he hits one it is usually like that.

"He was brought on as a sub to score a goal because I wanted to win the game and he did the job. I've been telling the players we need to win a few more away from home and so that is a boost for us. I thought we edged it."

Villa took the lead in the 17th minute through an Arjan de Zeeuw own goal but Pompey levelled within seven minutes thanks to Aiyegbeni Yakubu's penalty. A draw seemed on the cards until Hitzlsperger's decisive late effort.

Despite heaping praise on the player nicknamed 'The Hammer' for his powerful left-foot shot, O'Leary warned him not to drag out talks on a contract for next season.

"It is something that has been going on for too long already and should be settled by now," said the Villa manager. "Personally I want to keep him but if his personal demands become too much for us then there is not a lot that can be done because I just don't have the money."

O'Leary added: "It was a good performance today and we need a few more like it. A lot of teams have come to Portsmouth and struggled and I feared we might struggle as well after a distinctly 'home' penalty.

"I thought it was a bit soft to say the least but it was linked to an appeal for another one a few minutes earlier."

Pompey coach Joe Jordan, whose team have taken just four points from the last eight games, contemplated five weeks without another home match and visits to Manchester United and Arsenal.

"It is a tough period coming up but I think we can go into it knowing we have played well," he said. "We should have won the game on our first-half performance but we didn't push on enough in the second half when it was much more even.

"Either side could have won it and unfortunately for us it was Villa."

Much-coveted striker Yakubu was substituted before Hitzlsperger's winner, with Jordan explaining: "We wanted sharper legs in different areas and we have the flexibility to change things now, unlike earlier this season when Ricardo Fuller was our only fit striker for a while."

Pompey hung on to Yakubu during the January transfer window but manager Velimir Zajec has since confirmed he will probably be sold "to a big club" in the summer.

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