x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Villa triumph in Uefa Cup

Aston Villa beat Ajax, but Spurs and Portsmouth both lose away from home.

Gareth Barry scored the winner for Villa just before half-time in a memorable night at Villa Park.
Gareth Barry scored the winner for Villa just before half-time in a memorable night at Villa Park.

BIRMINGHAM // A Gareth Barry winner just before halftime sealed an impressive win for Aston Villa. The Villains held on to beat the four-time European champion Ajax 2-1 in their opening Uefa Cup group match. Villa, which won the European Cup in 1982, conceded an equaliser to Thomas Vermaelen before Barry collected a 45th-minute cross just inside the area and placed a low, left-foot shot past goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer. Villa first took the lead on the eighth minute when defender Martin Laursen beat Vermeer to head in Ashley Young's corner kick. Villa looked comfortable against the Dutch side but conceded in the 22nd, letting in a goal almost identical to the one it had scored when Vermaelen headed in Urby Emanuelson's corner kick. Emanuelson almost got an equaliser in the 79th but goalkeeper Brad Friedel just managed to save his low shot across goal and retained the win. But the English Premier League club took a late blow when striker Gabriel Agbonlahor was carried off after injuring his knee in a collision with Vermeer. Meanwhile, Udinese inflicted more misery on hapless Tottenham Hotspur with a 2-0 Uefa group stage victory. In-form Udinese's victory increased the pressure on the under-fire Spurs coach Juande Ramos, whose side prop up the Premier League and failed to finish with 11 men for the second successive match. Udinese, second in the Serie A, were gifted the chance to take the lead midway through the first half when Spurs' keeper Heurelho Gomes failed to clear a back-pass then fouled Fabio Quagliarella to stop the Italian striker gaining possession. Fellow Italian international Antonio Di Natale swept home the penalty. Spurs, who had two players sent off in their defeat at Stoke City at the weekend, were reduced to 10 men just before the hour when Jamie O'Hara was booked twice in a minute. A swift break secured the Group D points for Udinese four minutes from time with Simone Pepe firing home from eight metres. In the other Uefa Cup match involving an English side saw Portsmouth lose 3-0 to the Portuguese side Braga. Luis Aguiar hit a stunning 30-metre free kick to beat David James in the eight minute. Wason Renteria beat the offside trap before firing low past James to double their lead straight after half-time and Osorio Alan found the net from inside the six-yard box for the third to send Harry Redknapp's team to an opening defeat. *Agencies