Villa remind Redknapp to focus on 'survival'

Aston Villa 3 - Portsmouth 0
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The Independent Football

It is a good thing that Harry Redknapp has a generous sense of humour and appreciates satire at his own expense. On Saturday, he went to Villa Park to celebrate his 100th League match in charge of Portsmouth, buoyed by his status as the "manager of the month" and his team's win over Manchester United the previous weekend. He left, however, with his tail firmly wedged between his legs.

It is a good thing that Harry Redknapp has a generous sense of humour and appreciates satire at his own expense. On Saturday, he went to Villa Park to celebrate his 100th League match in charge of Portsmouth, buoyed by his status as the "manager of the month" and his team's win over Manchester United the previous weekend. He left, however, with his tail firmly wedged between his legs.

His feeble side were not just beaten, but embarrassed, in every facet of the game, including preparation, organisation, strategy and tactics. Aston Villa, rousing themselves from a sustained run of mediocrity, were given the space and time to play like serial winners, particularly in the first half-hour. The curse of the monthly award had struck again with wicked venom.

A nonsensical theory, of course. We all knew Lee Hendrie was in busy, creative and goal-scoring form, playing "in the hole" behind Carlton Cole and Juan Pablo Angel. Yet, he was unmarked. Hendrie, in concert with Nolberto Solano and Gavin McCann, played triangles off the front pair and cut the visitors' wafer-thin defence to ribbons.

The goals, from Peter Whittingham, Angel and Solano were well-taken. Poor Dejan Stefanovic was the prime culprit. He was suckered at the near post from Cole's cross and Angel's run and miskick for the opening goal, too easily outmanoeuvred for the second by Angel and failed to clear before Solano half-volleyed the third.

Redknapp was candid enough to admit his and his team's failings and state, with realism, that "survival would be another good season" for him.

David O'Leary, as he does, understated his ambitions for Villa. "The top six, the big boys, are up there because they've spent a lot of money and the rest of us can all beat each other. We are the other mob, trying to get up as close as possible.

These two teams, on this evidence, are not as good or as bad as they appeared on Saturday. And you cannot blame anyone's monthly awards for that.

Goals: Whittingham (18) 1-0; Angel (25) 2-0; Solano (40) 3-0.

Aston Villa (4-3-1-2): Sorensen; De la Cruz, Mellberg, Delaney, Samuel; Solano (Hitzlsperger, 85), McCann, Whittingham; Hendrie (Davis, 78); Cole (Moore, 68), Angel. Substitutes not used: Postma (gk), Ridgewell.

Portsmouth (4-4-2): Hislop; Primus (Griffin, 38), De Zeeuw, Stefanovic, Unsworth; LuaLua, Faye (Cissé, 83), Mezague (Hughes, 62), Quashie; Yakubu, Fuller. Substitutes not used: Ashdown (gk), Taylor.

Referee: M Halsey (Lancashire).

Booked: Aston Villa: Samuel. Portsmouth: Unsworth.

Man of the match: Angel.

Attendance: 32,633.

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