Smash Hitz at Fratton Park
By Alex Dunn. Last Updated: February 12, 2005 2:43pm
Portsmouth's miserable form continues after substitute Thomas Hitzlsperger stole the points for Aston Villa at Fratton Park.
The German midfielder struck in the second half with a trademark hammer of a strike after Yakubu Aiyegbeni had earlier cancelled out an own goal from Portsmouth captain Arjen De Zeeuw.
For two sides struggling for form and confidence, the first period was a surprisingly bright and enterprising affair on what was a downcast day on the South Coast.
Such has been the slump since Harry Redknapp's acrimonious departure to Southampton, Velimir Zajec has already decided the dugout is not to his appetite and when Arjen De Zeeuw prodded into his own goal the clouds visibly darkened.
Portsmouth had started the brighter with Diomansy Kamara proving a handful; his meandering and unpredictable dribbles posing several questions for Villa's backline.
It was the flamboyant Senegal international that garnered the first opportunity of note when his drilled snap shot drifted wide of Thomas Sorensen's far post.
Patrick Berger's left foot was providing ammunition from the left flank but with the home side in the ascendency, Villa launched a counter-attack that ended with De Zeeuw diverting the ball past his own goalkeeper in an attempt to intercept a cross from Luke Moore.
Credit to Zajec's side for their response as the Pompey chimes were only subdued for the briefest of periods.
First, Berger retrieved possession and drifting inside cracked a daisy cutter that beat Sorensen from 25 yards but not the post.
Within a minute, the 24th, Steve Stone ran at Gareth Barry down the right and after cutting inside the Villa man, referee Dermot Gallagher adjudged a foul and pointed the spot.
The decision looked harsh but Yakubu showed no sympathy and dispatched with customary nonchalance after first allowing Sorensen to dive.
An increasingly influential Berger then looped a volley over the top before Karama demonstrated his more erratic side by glancing a free header wide.
Yakubu powered a far post header against the post and it was the home side that went into the interval having had the better of an entertaining 45 minutes.
If the first half was an exhibition of two sides gunning for three points, the second reverted to type as nerves played their part and chances were at a premium.
The first would fall to Olof Mellberg but the Swedish stopper could only head over the top after Konstantinos Chalkias made a trademark dash off his line only to find the ball had drifted over his head.
Pompey's passing remained the crisper but with Hitzlsperger adding more steel to the visitor's midfield, it was Villa who would conjure the greater openings.
Juan Pablo Angel endured a quiet afternoon but when he turned sharply the resulting effort into the throat of Chalkias will have disappointed.
Hitzlsperger's contract expires in the summer so perhaps the biggest smile at Fratton Park will have belonged to his agent after the German's strike on 72.
A first touch flicked the ball onto his hammer and from 20 yards he dispatched the most sumptuous of strikes past Chalkias.
Unlike in the first half, Portsmouth's response would prove tepid and indeed had Chalkias not palmed over from substitute Steven Davis their woes would have worsened.
The home side's best chance would fall to Kamara but he could only pull his effort wide on the stretch.
Talk of relegation has until now centred on four sides, of which three will not be in the Premiership next season, but perhaps now is the time to add a fifth to the equation.
Click on fixture for player ratings:
Portsmouth v Aston Villa
|Team Name||Aston Villa|
|3||Shots on target ( Inc Goals )||3|
|7||Shots off Target (inc woodwork)||2|
|14||Total Fouls Conceded||22|
Barclays Premier League
|12||West Bromwich Albion||13||15|
|15||West Ham United||14||13|