Villa cruise to comfortable win

Goals from Peter Whittingham, Juan Pablo Angel and Nolberto Solano in the space of 22 first-half minutes effectively settled the match before the interval, all bar the shouting, which was predictably subdued as the Pompey fans tried to work if their team had been clandestinely swapped with their south coast neighbours Southampton since last weekend’s win against Manchester United.

Villa controlled from the kick-off, with the midfield quartet dominating possession and centre-back partners Mark Delaney and Olof Mellberg finally looking at ease in each other's company as they nullified the threat of Yakubu. Angel and Whittingham both came close early on with a header and long-range drive respectively, before the latter broke the deadlock on 18 minutes with his first league goal when he tapped in Carlton Cole’s right-wing cross after Angel had missed it at the front post.

Seven minutes later it was two with a goal made in South America. Solano and Ulises De La Cruz combined, again on the right, with the Ecuadorian eventually crossing to Angel who showed superb technique to beat his marker and whip a shot past Shaka Hislop. In truth the goalkeeper should have done better, though the new yellow ball did appear to swerve incongruously. He could have done nothing if Angel had managed to direct a header on target from JLloyd Samuel’s brilliant cross shortly after, but the Colombian was uncharacteristically profligate.

Samuel was still way off his best and continues to play as if last season never happened, reluctant to make marauding runs forward and looking lax on the ball, but his malaise was covered up by an excellent midfield. Gavin McCann, Whittingham and Lee Hendrie all put in battling performances even if the latter, buoyed by his recent goal spree, is doing for fear of shooting, what Mary Whitehouse once did for antidisestablishmentarianism.

But it was the other member of the quartet, the creative Solano, who completed the scoring five minutes before half-time with Cole once again the not exactly intentional provider. The striker’s cross struck Dejan Stefanovic on the edge of the six-yard box and Solano cushioned the ball before a superb technical lob gave Villa a three-goal cushion before the interval. Somewhat predictably, David O’Leary’s side failed to add to their lead in the second half, but Portsmouth never tested it either, and the Irishman will be happy to see his side rise above Manure, Newcastle and Liverpool in the table.