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Page last updated at 20:48 GMT, Thursday, 28 August 2008 21:48 UK

Villa 1-1 Hafnarfjordur (agg 5-2)

By Saj Chowdhury

Craig Gardner
Midfielder Gardner was at the forefront of Villa's attacks

Aston Villa comfortably booked their spot in the Uefa Cup after a draw against FH Hafnarfjordur gave them a 5-2 aggregate victory.

England Under-21 midfielder Craig Gardner gave Villa the lead with a fierce strike from inside the area.

Within three minutes the Icelandic team were level when Atli Bjornsson fired in at the near post.

Gardner also had a shot saved by keeper Gunnar Sigurdsson and an effort deflected wide from 10 yards.

The first-half score by the visitors from Iceland should only be seen as a minor blip during what was a comfortable night for Martin O'Neill's side.

Taking a 4-1 lead into the home leg, the Villa boss decided to make six changes to the side that lost to Stoke last weekend.

The best of the half-dozen was Gardner who was outstanding in the centre and was involved in most of Villa's slick moves upfield.

The 21-year-old had a fierce drive saved by Sigurdsson and was stopped from connecting with Marlon Harewood's low centre, before opening the scoring.

It was striker Harewood again, who sped up the right and cut the ball back for Gardner, who buried the ball high past the reach of Sigurdsson from 20 yards.

A rout seemed likely, but just three minutes later the part-timers reduced the aggregate deficit to 5-2 when Villa keeper Brad Friedel inexplicably parried a high cross into the path of Bjornsson, who steadied himself before firing in at the far post.

606: DEBATE
initforthevilla

The game, which was played at pre-season level in the first half, dropped another notch after the break.

Only the omnipresent Gardner had a real sight on goal for Villa in the second half when he arrived late to latch on to a Wayne Routledge cross and unleash a shot that was deflected wide.

The Villa crowd began leaving 10 minutes before the end, perhaps slightly disgruntled with their side's lackadaisical efforts.

But from manager O'Neill's point of view his side's objective was achieved in the first leg and the team can now look forward to their European challenge.


Villa boss Martin O'Neill:
"We were in a great position to start with.

"We did really well out there but I was hoping we would be ready for the game. We did enough to get through.

"But I believe we could improve immensely on that performance."


Aston Villa: Friedel, Gardner, Knight, Davies, Barry, Routledge, Reo-Coker, Osbourne, Salifou, Agbonlahor (Delfouneso 62), Harewood.
Subs Not Used: Taylor, Laursen, Ashley Young, Carew, Petrov, Baker.

Booked: Harewood, Delfouneso.

Goals: Gardner 27.

FH Hafnarfjordur: Oskarsson, Asgeirsson, Nielsen, Siim, Valgardsson, Vihjalmsson, Vidarsson, Bjorn Sverrisson (Gardarsson 84), Matthias Gudmundsson, Bjornsson (Gudnason 58), Tryggvi Gudmundsson (Saevarsson 82).

Subs Not Used: Larusson, Eiriksson, Bjarnason, Birkir Sverrisson.

Booked: Valgardsson.

Goals: Bjornsson 30.

Agg (5-2)

Att: 25,415

Ref: Bjorn Kuipers (Holland).


see also
Uefa Cup photos
28 Aug 08 |  Football
Uefa Cup as it happened
28 Aug 08 |  Europe


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