Aston Villa 0 Portsmouth 0

Martin O'Neill's decision to freshen up his Aston Villa side was hardly a success and he might well have been better advised not to have made changes in his line-up.

The result was a low-key affair which only came to life with the sending-off of Portsmouth's Sean Davis in the 81st minute for a second booking.

The game, however, did raise fresh questions about Villa's ability to maintain their fine early season start in view of their European commitments.

Portsmouth, meanwhile, increased their unbeaten run to five games against Villa and could be happy with the outcome.

It was therefore a satisfactory 25th managerial anniversary for Portsmouth's Harry Redknapp who again came in for some heavy verbal abuse from the Holte End fans.

Unfortunately the game was marred when a fan threw a 50p coin apparently in the direction of Redknapp. The coin, however, struck a linesman on the eyebrow who had to receive treatment.

A whistle happy referee Mike Riley hardly helped the flow of the game and the game became an increasingly frustrating affair.

There had been a promising start from Portsmouth when Aston Villa's goalkeeper, Brad Friedel, making his 160th consecutive Premiership appearance, had to react smartly to keep out a fifth minute low shot from Davis, who later received his marching orders for two suspect tackles.

Later the American keeper could only watch as Armand Traore smashed an angled shot against the post in the 28th minute. The ball rebounded out to Jermain Defoe, but Portsmouth's leading marksman could only hook his attempt over the bar from close range.

With Peter Crouch operating just behind Defoe there was always a potential threat from the attack, with Traore's speed also a problem for a Villa defence which often appeared suspect.

Sylvain Distin, who once scored one of the best solo goals at Villa Park over the past decade often moved forward to give added support to the Pompey attack.

Although facing the side with the worst defensive away record in the division Villa, who had scored 15 goals in their previous six games, lacked a vital cutting edge, when, not for the first time this season, they struggled to get their act together in the first half.

In fact, the re-vamped Villa side, with Gareth Barry, back from England duty, used in a defensive role, were lacking in several vital departments and took a long time to find any pattern to their game.

What was particularly disappointing was the first-half form of Ashley Young. Admittedly he suffered from the lack of a good service but his usual spark was missing and this explained Villa's inability to get on top of a Portsmouth side, who were quite happy to mount a containing operation.

Young certainly improved in the second half when he came in for some heavy treatment and in the 76th minute forced David James to make his best save of the game to keep out a curling free-kick.

Portsmouth's most anxious moment occurred in the 58th minute when Nigel Reo-Coker's short centre went across the fact of goal without a Villa player on hand to make contact.