Portsmouth 2 Aston Villa 0: Carson picks up James' old calamity mantle

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The Independent Football

Poor Scott Carson. Aston Villa's goalkeeper produced the kind of performance in front of Fabio Capello that helped to get the England manager's predecessor, Steve McClaren, sacked. As a result, FA Cup semi-finalists Portsmouth completed a league double over the Midlands team and moved above them into sixth.

Perhaps it was the presence of Niko Kranjcar, Carson's Croatian nemesis, in Pompey blue that unsettled him. He was partly at fault for Jermain Defoe's early opener and messed up totally as Pompey scored a second six minutes before the interval, the ball eventually going in off Nigel Reo-Coker in bizarre fashion. To make matters worse, David James gave a goalkeeping master-class at the other end.

Carson wasn't the only one below par. The over-zealous Chris Foy managed what you suspected he was looking to do all afternoon and dismissed Pompey's Sulley Muntari and Villa's Olof Mellberg. Both went for a spot of shirt pulling which apparently amounted to second bookable offences.

There were Wembley reminders everywhere, with the PA announcer even encouraging fans to send in requests for the pre-match music for the semi-final against West Bromwich, but any fears Redknapp had that his team's Premier League campaign would suffer after last weekend's quarter-final triumph at Old Trafford must have been eased.

"It rounds off a great week for us," said Redknapp, whose side also beat Birmingham in midweek. "Three terrific results." He thought both dismissals were "harsh", adding: "You'll have no players left on the pitch if players get sent off like that." Villa had their chances. James saved a Shaun Maloney shot, stopped bravely at Gabriel Agbonlahor's feet and did well to keep out Ashley Young's free-kick after John Carew got a touch.

That was all in the first half. Four minutes after the restart, Agbonlahor missed an open goal from Maloney's cross. "That was a key miss, but there were others," Martin O'Neill, the Villa manager, said. He didn't criticise Carson, saying the second goal was a fluke: "You'll see a lot of games without seeing another of those. Overall, I have been pleased with Scott in his year's loan from Liverpool. But James is an exceptional keeper and mistakes don't seem to faze him."

Portsmouth went ahead after 13 minutes when Glen Johnson's huge pass sent Defoe through and the striker got between Zat Knight and the errant Martin Laursen to lift the ball over Carson, whom he had spotted advancing from his line. It was his sixth goal in six starts since joining from Tottenham in the transfer window.

The second, after 39 minutes, also involved Defoe, although it was more about Carson's incompetence. Sulley Muntari's pass set Defoe and Wilfred Bouma off in a race for possession and there was every indication the Villa defender could win it. Alas, Carson hared out and his attempted clearance crashed against the unfortunate Reo-Coker, 25 yards out, before rebounding into Villa's goal. At the other end, James made one more fine save from Young.

Agbonlahor's miss after the break confirmed nothing was going for Villa, who have dropped five points in a week after a draw with Middlesbrough. O'Neill brought on Marlon Harewood as an extra striker and he had a "goal" rightly disallowed for offside after 70 minutes.

Carson, meanwhile, was getting barracked for slipping over while kicking the ball upfield. He did, though, make a decent save from Muntari and was relieved as Kranjcar fluffed a chance with only the keeper to beat. When James did make an error, twice dropping the ball late on, Capello had already left.

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