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Page last updated at 16:02 GMT, Saturday, 18 October 2008 17:02 UK

Aston Villa 0-0 Portsmouth

By Chris Whyatt

Sol Campbell and Gabriel Agbonlahor
Campbell (left) repelled waves of Aston Villa attacks in the second-half

Aston Villa and Portsmouth cemented their places in the top half of the Premier League table after a hard-fought draw at Villa Park.

The visitors started well with Jermain Defoe missing a sitter after Armand Traore had hit the post.

But Villa had numerous chances to get a second-half winner with John Carew heading against the bar late on.

Pompey midfielder Sean Davis was unlucky to be sent off with 10 minutes remaining after a second yellow card.

It was an unfortunate end to the match for Pompey boss Harry Redknapp, who this weekend celebrates 25 years in management.

Villa manager Martin O'Neill meanwhile, was looking to get their solid start to the season back on track after being outclassed by Chelsea before the international break.

The home side had maintained an unchanged starting 11 for all seven of their league games but O'Neill gave a league debut to defender Carlos Cuellar and handed James Milner a first league start in his second spell with the club.

Making only his second start for Pompey, Glen Little was soon marauding down the right wing and his accurate cross saw Traore set up Davis for a low snap-shot on the edge of box, which Villa keeper Brad Friedel gathered well.

Ban coin 'moron' for life - Redknapp

On six minutes Carew lashed a left-foot volley just over David James' crossbar as the match opened up quickly.

Adventurous Pompey were looking to expose Villa's high back line and, Sol Campbell and Carew, reminiscent of two heavyweight boxers, were in a constant battle for scraps of possession when the home side pushed on.

Portsmouth's England internationals Peter Crouch and Defoe showed some neat link-up play on 20 minutes with the former setting up the latter to shoot just over the bar from long range.

Defoe was again the provider when he nudged the ball to Traore, who crashed his effort against the upright.

As the ball bounced off the post, it hit a bewildered Friedel before Defoe volleyed over from four yards out.

Shortly before half-time Little again whipped in a decent deep cross for Crouch but he could only head weakly into the hands of Friedel as he attempted to guide the ball back on the direction it came.

606: DEBATE

Villa looked more lively early in the second half but, after Stiliyan Petrov drifted a clever cross-field ball into the heart of Pompey's back-pedalling defence, Young - with time and space to spare - could only drag a low shot well wide.

Minutes later Davis was booked for a challenge from behind on Nigel Reo-Coker as Villa continued to up the tempo in front of a vociferous home crowd.

Papa Bouba Diop was booked for hacking down Young as he broke directly towards goal after 73 minutes and the young winger tested James from the resulting free-kick.

Defoe had netted five goals in his last five Premier League matches but could not add to that run when he cracked a right-foot shot high over the bar after cleverly peeling off a posse of defenders to meet Johnson's smart free-kick.

I thought we would sneak it - O'Neill

Davis was harshly sent off for his second yellow card with 10 minutes remaining after appearing to only slightly clip the heels of Petrov as the Villa man broke clear in midfield.

Villa almost scored when James sliced an attempted punched clearance but with the ball skidding towards goal, Campbell hacked clear to safety.

And they came within inches of a late winner when Young drifted a cross onto the head of Carew who headed onto the bar from 18 yards out with James stranded.

Though Villa could not make the breakthrough, they remain unbeaten at home in the Premier League, while Pompey have stemmed the tide after losing four of the last five away league matches.


Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill:
"In the first half we only got going in fits and starts but the second half belonged to us.

"We were in control of the game and put a lot of pressure on them. It is disappointing not to win but I was delighted with the effort.

"We just could not force the ball over the line."

Portsmouth boss Harry Redknapp:
"Martin O'Neill has built a very good team here and to restrict them to a very few shots on goal was excellent on our part.

"I thought Sol Campbell was terrific. He was up against a big man in John Carew and did splendidly."


Aston Villa: Friedel, Cuellar, Davies, Laursen (Luke Young 88), Milner, Reo-Coker, Petrov, Barry, Ashley Young, Agbonlahor, Carew.
Subs Not Used: Guzan, Sidwell, Harewood, Knight, Shorey, Gardner.

Booked: Ashley Young.

Portsmouth: James, Johnson, Campbell, Distin, Armand Traore (Belhadj 78), Little (Utaka 71), Davis, Diop, Pamarot, Defoe (Mvuemba 82), Crouch.
Subs Not Used: Ashdown, Hreidarsson, Thomas, Kanu.

Sent Off: Davis (81).

Booked: Johnson, Davis, Diop.

Att: 37,660

Ref: Mike Riley (Yorkshire).


BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match:
Aston Villa's Ashley Young 8.29 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

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see also
FA probes Villa Park coin attack
18 Oct 08 |  Aston Villa
Premier League as it happened
18 Oct 08 |  Premier League
Saturday's football photos
18 Oct 08 |  Football
Hero or zero?
29 Mar 08 |  Premier League
Redknapp marks 25-year milestone
17 Oct 08 |  Portsmouth


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