What a fantastic night!
I had my difficulties getting to the game, but managed to arrive on time, which was the main thing - and despite a little disappointment at the final result what a fantastic night it was and if you cannot be proud of that you never will be...
Some people laughed off my thoughts of 'we are going to beat Milan you know' as blind faith or foolish optimism, but much like that feeling I had when we went to Old Trafford and beat Manyoo in the FA cup last season I honestly believed that we would beat Milan - and how close we came, we deserved to win.
The team, when announced was 'interesting'. To be honest not the team you would have picked if you could have picked others, but what a performance they gave!
The back four was one that I was more than happy with, the central defensive pairing of Sylvain Distin and Younes Kaboul is one that I am more than happy with and the younger Frenchman, who finally scored a goal he has threatened in recent weeks, will be harshly dealt with if dropped when Sol Campbell is fit again. Seeing Nadir Belhadj return in the left back spot pleased me - and the fella was fantastic, a really disciplined defensive performance - with plenty of attacking threat as well. Clearly he was told to defend first attack second and he did this with great success.
Glen Little starting on the right was a slight surprise, although on reflection who else could have done it? But a pleasant one it was as I really think that the fella has something about him, when he can stay fit, and I think he proved that. I was disappointed that Sean Davis was not fit enough to start but Papa Bouba Diop - who, in a familiar central role, had a good game but still cannot shot to save his life, and still goes down far too easily - and Richard Hughes did a fine job in the middle of the park, the early booking to the Scot had me in fear but he kept his head and stayed on the pitch. Armand Troare added to the constant threat we had done the left hand side and if he and his fellow flyer, Belhadj, are not able to make that left side of the field their own again there is something horribly wrong. The Algerian has learned the discipline needed to be successful, his defensive side of the game is clearly being worked on and told to not go totally gun-ho, he did as told. I repeat what I have said before, and whilst I must admit before the game I said to someone 'we would not sign both as there does not seem a place for both' I think they again proved there is, so 'sign 'em both up!' I say this even 'if' it means letting one of the 'big guns' go...
I have knocked Kanu at times but 'the king' rolled back the years with a top class showing - a pairing with Peter Crouch, which concerned me, worked really well in fact. They took it in turns dropping deep to hold up the play and the skill on display from the Nigerian was fantastic. The England man also won everything aimed at him.
Anyway, analysis of the players over - something I had not planned to do but went of at a tangent - we started a little tentatively and Milan had a few chances that made you think 'its only a matter of time' but we soon grew into the game and at half time at 0-0 it was no more than we deserved - the atmosphere was brilliant as well, a typical midweek floodlit game, the best kinds.
After a small 'master class' of keep ball we burst into full flow and made the Italian look 'ordinary' to say the least, and you only have to look at their team sheet to know they were not. The performance shifted up through the gears as the Fratton Faithful became more and more vocal - a stadium wide rendition of 'Tony Adams Blue and White Army' saw the whole of Fratton Park rise to its feet, what a sight this was to behold looking around Fratton, but the noise was phenomenal. I do not know how it came across on the box, but in the flesh it was 'hair standing up on the back of the neck' time, I even had a lump in my throat, another truly special moment that will stick with me for all time - this took the performance on the pitch to an all time high level and after a sustained period of pressure that was only lacking that killer final ball. We finally got this as a pinpoint cross from the outstanding Glen Johnson, once again, found the had of Kaboul and he put us ahead and Fratton went wild - even more so! Our failing in recent weeks has been our inability to kill off a game, but when we entered dreamland as Kanu added a second, again from a cross from the should, and maybe will be, England right back we were in complete control.
We carried on pressing, but after the referee played a part in getting Milan back into the game - the award of the free kick from which Ronaldinho scored seemed soft, from the 'real time' version I saw it, to say the least. The execution was top class though, although - without benefit of any replays - I must admit the positioning of David James seemed 'odd?' Panic set in and you feared another late goal being conceded, and as we dropped deeper and deeper it eventually came - although again I felt the award of the free kick on half way was soft, but we did not get back to defend quick enough and Filippo Inzaghi broke our hearts in injury time!
To be honest this is nothing new is it, as we keep seeing this, but I think I felt more robbed than any of the other late goals that have cost us wins or even draws recently - as without a shadow of a doubt we deserved to beat one of Europe's, in fact the World's, greatest teams and that would have been fitting reward for our efforts. We did proved once and for all, beyond a shadow of a doubt that with or without some other 'star names' we have a fantastic set of players here and players that can still achieve things for us. That starting 11 alone, with luck and lack of injuries, on its day has proven it is good enough to match the best in the business.
In the cold light of day, as gutted as I am that we could not see it through, I am so proud to have witnessed what I did last night and to have been in that crowd was even more special - we have a good atmosphere anyway, but lets not see it turn 'flat' again on Sunday, we inspire the side, so lets carry on inspiring them as 'when' Tony Adams' luck really does change, and it will, we can kick on - and no doubt about it, with more luck in recent weeks we would have been in the top 4 by now and beaten Milan!
The European tour is far from over, even though we 'only' claimed a point we have put our qualification back into our own hands and after the Braga mauling with Milan to follow I think we would have settled for that!
I go to Wolfsburg next week now with even more optimism that we will still have 'at least' one port of call on our European journey - after that - and, with some luck if we 'could' beat the Germans, if Braga were beaten by the whipping boys Heerenveen, we would be through with a game to play! Two wins and we are through without a doubt, a draw and a win and we 'might' still do it. Ah well, I guess the best thing for us to do is just play like we did against Milan over in Wolfsburg and get the win and then take the rest from there...
PLAY UP POMPEY!
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