Portsmouth 2 Aston Villa 0
England goalkeeper Scott Carson’s lack of composure in front of watching national team boss Fabio Capello gifted Portsmouth three points in a clash between two European hopefuls at Fratton Park.
Capello and goalkeeping coach Ray Clemence were on hand to watch two extraordinary first-half goals that could colour their thinking for England’s next friendly against France.
Jermain Defoe’s superbly-chipped opener in the 11th minute after scoring twice in the first eight minutes against Birmingham in midweek left Carson staring at the sky in disbelief after he raced off his line instead of letting two defenders deal with the striker.
But that did not stop the 22-year-old whose blunders cost England dearly against Croatia last November having another rush of blood for Pompey’s second when his sliding clearance from the elusive Defoe rebounded off retreating Villa team-mate Nigel Reo-Coker and flew once more into an empty net.
To make it even worse for Carson, his Villa strikers had a dismal afternoon in front of goal after the West Midlands team dominated the game.
And David James, the 37-year-old who has come back and supplanted him in the England team, pulled off a string of top saves.
To add to the spice, Pompey’s Sulley Muntari was sent off for a second yellow card nine minutes from the end – for the second time this season – and so was Villa’s Olof Mellberg a few minutes later.
James, who took over from Carson in goal for England’s first game under Capello against Switzerland, was the first to be tested when Shaun Maloney cut in from the left to fire a low shot in the greasy conditions after just two minutes but the veteran grasped it firmly.
And when Hermann Hreidarsson – switching the centre back in place of injured Sol Campbell – was caught out by a long ball that slipped behind him, James raced off his line to block the threat of Gabriel Agbonlahor with typical bravery two minutes later.
Milan Baros was soon the victim of verbal abuse by the travelling Villa fans but proved a lively threat, getting the better of Wilfred Bouma to earn a free-kick just outside the area on the right.
It was cleared, but soon afterwards Pompey went ahead with a another magnificent goal by the brilliant Defoe – his sixth in six games.
Glen Johnson’s long ball forward gave the tiny striker the drop of Martin Laursen and Zat Knight and although they both recovered the round to converge on him just inside the corner of the box he simply chipped over the advancing Carson to land, one bounce, in the empty net.
When Villa struck back James was alert to turn the ball away from a corner after John Carew rose to head on a free-kick by Ashley Young and almost found the late run of unmarked Agbonlahor.
James, 37, caught the resultant flag-kick and bowled it out to the half way line and when it was helped on Baros got in ahead of the Villa defenders to bring a smart save from Carson after 18 minutes.
Villa’s fierce retaliation brought a couple of corners on the right with Pompey’s Papa Bouba Diop needing treatment after heading away Gareth Barry’s inswinger, perilously near to an upright.
But Carson’s second howler left them stunned. Defoe was on the chase again with Bouma for a through-ball and although Carson got there ahead of both of them, Reo-Coker was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Shots by Carew and Young which finished off target when they should have done better summed up a disastrous fist half for Villa.
It got worse. Five minutes after the break Barry’s pass put Maloney in on the left to steer a low cross beyond James’ grasp but Agbonlahor, who has not scored for nine games somehow steered it wide of the gaping goal from five yards.
And when Marlon Harewood came on for Maloney his first action was spurning another fine chance created by Barry, the finish again wide of the mark from close range.
And James excelled with a plunging save to deflect Young’s curling free-kick.
Niko Kranjcar should have wrapped it up for Pompey, despite Villa’s mounting possession. Baros, on the break, set him up with a clear shot but he screwed it wide in the 69th minute.
Muntari had to march after a second yellow card, a challenge from behind substitute Moustapha Salifou after a petty foul on Reo-Coker in the first half.
Then Mellberg walked after tripping Defoe, having been booked for grabbing Kranjcar by the neck earlier.
But Carson still looked the saddest figure of all.