x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Villa are second best

The Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill pinned his faith in his second string and only ended up inspiring the opposition.

Hamburg's Mladen Petric and Ivica Olic, right, celebrate the latter's goal against Aston Villa.
Hamburg's Mladen Petric and Ivica Olic, right, celebrate the latter's goal against Aston Villa.

Martin O'Neill pinned his faith in his second string and only ended up inspiring the opposition. It was a lesson learnt as Aston Villa were brutally exposed by Hamburg, the German side winning 3-1, but their manager is convinced his main men will prove a match for anyone in the competition this season. They have already shown that in the Premier League as they challenge for a top four spot. "We were second best. I am disappointed to be beaten, but we have qualified and we will give the competition due consideration in February," said O'Neill.

"I am looking forward to the draw. A full-strength Villa side would be better [than that]." The Hamburg coach, Martin Jol, expects Villa to be a threat in the competition, but he used their weakened side to lift his team, for whom the Croatian pair Ivica Olic and Mladen Petric were superb. "Villa are strong enough to go all the way. If all the players are there, it doesn't matter if Villa play number one or number three in the group in the latter stages," he said.

"We were happy even before the game when we saw the line-up. "It motivated the players because, although it is not true, you can tell the players they are a bit arrogant. You use everything to your advantage and you could see my players wanted to win." Villa, who had Steve Sidwell sent off for two bookable offences, had only one bright spot with a goal from Nathan Delfouneso. Portsmouth's European adventure ended on a winning note, but their thumping 3-0 win over Heerenveen - inspired by a brace from Peter Crouch - was overshadowed by transfer talk with Lassana Diarra certain to be on his way out after Real Madrid had an offer accepted. Tony Adams, the Portsmouth manager, will have to make sure he spends wisely to keep Pompey on track for a Uefa Cup place next season.

Crouch said playing teams like Milan has whetted their appetite for more European action. "It's going to be tough to get back in the Uefa Cup," he said. "There are lot of teams vying for that position, but we've had a taste of teams coming to Fratton Park like AC Milan, though and now we want more of it." akhan@thenational.ae