PORTSMOUTH // Nathan Delfouneso came off the bench to score the winner, his first Aston Villa goal, against relegated Portsmouth yesterday. The victory put Villa into sixth place and what is likely to earn them a Europa League spot next season. Avram Grant, the Portsmouth manager, handed the 18-year-old academy defender Leonard Sowah his first start for the club and his side put in the kind of performance that belied their position at the foot of the table.
Fratton Park went into uproar in the ninth minute when Anth-ony Vanden Borre raced down the right, out-muscled Stephen Warnock, and laid the ball off to Michael Brown who carefully placed it past Brad Friedel to put Pompey 1-0 up. David James then reacted well to deny John Carew, the Villa striker, from five yards but the Norwegian beat the England keeper minutes later to draw Villa level. Marc Wilson's attempt to play Carew offside from Warnock's through-ball failed and the Villa striker raced through before cutting back across the defender to beat James. Carew could have made it 2-1 just before the break, but James pulled off a brilliant penalty save to deny Aston Villa the lead.
Papa Bouba Diop pulled Carew down in the box, but James pushed out a powerful spot kick. Stiliyan Petrov though he should have had a penalty, too, midway through the second half, when he took the ball into the Portsmouth area, rounded James and tumbled over. Television replays showed that the Bulgarian had left his leg dragging behind him an attempt to entice a foul and Lee Probert, the referee, was unmoved.
With 10 minutes left, Martin O'Neill brought on the 19-year-old Delfouneso for Gabriel Agbonlahor and the youngster had an almost immediate impact. James Milner crossed from the left, Emile Heskey, another substitute, flicked the ball on, and Delfouneso prodded the ball home. * PA Sport