2008/09 Pompey in review - November
November was only a day old when Tony Adams took charge at Fratton for the first time (officially) and the Latics were the visitors. It was Pompey's 4th game in 8 days and fatigue was to play a major part. With Crouch and Defoe back together up top on a soaking afternoon, Portsmouth searched for 3 points. However, the visitors didn't come to roll over, and after a barrage of chances for Pompey, which saw them hit the woodwork thrice, and see a couple of shots cleared off the line, it was Wigan that took the lead. Bouba Diop conceding his second penalty in two games, this one seemingly harsher than the one against Liverpool. Zaki made no mistake from the spot. Kranjcar equalised in a second half dominated by Pompey with a drilled shot through a crowd of players, but as Pompey searched desperately for a winner, inevitably were stung by a rare Wigan attack in the 92nd minute, which saw Emile Heskey stroke home the winner, and in turn grab his 100th Premier League goal.
Off the pitch, the Pompey exodus continued, with Joe Jordan leaving to join Redknapp at Spurs, an event that left a sour taste in the mouth of the fans. In addition to this, Adam's old teammate, Martin Keown, decided not to join the Fratton backroom.
A trip to Sunderland was on the cards next, and it looked like it was going to be a long day when Cisse scored after 4 minutes from a long diagonal Andy Reid ball. Sunderland dominated the first half and David James showed why he was still England's Number one. Shortly after the break, Nadir Belhadj struck an absolute beauty from 35 yards which brought the game back to life. The game was back and forward and Sunderland looked like the had won it when an offside flag denied them the lead. However, as was the case 7 days previous, the home side we're to be robbed by a injury time strike. El Hadji Diouf is roundly hated by every Pompey fan, so it was to our great pleasure when he hauled down Glen Johnson inside the area in stoppage time. Up stepped Defoe to give all 3 points to the blues, despite it being the least convincing performance under Adams so far.
With Portsmouth only managing 1 clean sheet in the last 8, and the Hammers not managing one all season to this point, Portsmouth's trip to Upton Park had 0-0 written all over it. Newly appointed assistant coach Johnny Metgod joined the ranks as the Blues were spurred on by last weeks win over Sunderland. Portsmouth were the better team in the first half, with Johnson proving to be a handful on the right. However, Defoe failed to test Robert Green with any of his 3 decent opportunities. West Ham struck the crossbar from a Bellamy free-kick in the second half, and the Hammers continued to put pressure on the Pompey goal, which gave the Blues a chance to counter, but Robert Green kept West Ham on level terms, and the Pompey back line remained firm to give both sides a well earned point.
After picking up 4 points from 2 tricky away games, Portsmouth had 3 home games in 8 days, two league games sandwiched a mouth watering UEFA Cup tie against AC Milan. A tightly contested contest against a high-flying Hull was the first of this trio, and confidant fans expected all 3 points.
This seemed to be on the cards when Papa Bouba Diop had fans cheering within a minute of kick-off. However, the Senegalese midfielder's header did not fully cross the line. Pompey didn't have long to wait for the lead however as Peter Crouch towered to nod in Kaboul's cross. Pompey wasted several other chances through Crouch and Diop, before the visitors equalised early in the second half. Geovanni had demonstrated that Hull shouldn't be counted out with a fantastic 40 yard strike which rattled the crossbar before Michael Turner headed home from a corner. Hull we're only level for 9 minutes, when a truly outstanding strike from Glen Johnson put Pompey back in front. Chesting the ball down about 35 yards from goal, and striking a picture perfect left foot volley which left everyone in the ground, including the Hull keeper, Boaz Myhill, speechless. The goal went on to win the BBC Goal Of The Season award and is one that is worthy of winning any match. However, Phil Brown's side hadn't read the script, and as Pompey sat back in the closing minutes, a scrappy cross fell to Dean Windass, whose shot came off Noe Pamarot to see Hull grab an unlikely point.
The 27th of November is a date which will never be forgotten by any Pompey fan, as it was the evening when one of the giants of world football visited Fratton Park. AC Milan we're in town and the atmosphere was out of this world. Pompey's squad was so depleted at this point that they we're unable to name 7 substitutes, whereas AC Milan had the likes of Pirlo, Ronaldinho and Seedorf on their bench. However, this didn't deter the Blues as Pompey played some beautiful football, with Richard Hughes and Bouba Diop dominating the midfield battle, and frustrating the World Player of the year, Kaka. Inzaghi was Milan's main threat, but when he missed 3 golden opportunities, it looked like a shock could be on the cards.
Pompey grew in confidence and started to attack, with Crouch missing a host of opportunities, including angling a head back across the box with the whole goal to aim at. However, the Blues we're soon in dreamland when a pin-point Glen Johnson cross found Younes Kaboul, who picked the perfect time to score his first Pompey goal, rising between two defenders to head home. Just when it couldn't get any better, it did. Johnson again was brilliant down the right, and bagged his second assist of the evening when his dangerous low cross was scooped into the roof of the net from 2 yards from Kanu, the King of vitally important 2-yard goals. Fratton Park went crazy, and in an ideal world (and in Portsmouth's official end of season dinner highlight package) the review ends here. However, it was not to be for Portsmouth, as an piece of Ronaldinho magic brought Milan back into the game with 5 minutes on the clock, and Inzaghi quashing everyone's dream in the 93rd minute to send Milan through and put Pompey on the brink of elimination.
The month ended with another home game against Blackburn, and worryingly for Pompey, they had got into a habit of throwing away leads and conceding goals in the last minute. With Adams still looking for his first home win, the first half was a dull one, with Portsmouth looking tired. One chance worth of note fell to Glen Little, whose couldn't connect properly from Glen Johnsons perfect cross. Kranjcar came on at half time for Little and Pompey suddenly looked like they could win it. Within 4 minutes of the restart Crouch headed Portsmouth into the lead from Johnson's cross, and within another 4 minutes it was Defoe who made it 2-0, with a mazy run and a low shot from 20 yards for a great solo goal. With Pompey in full control, it was a shock to the home crowd when Matt Derbyshire pulled one back just after the hour. With 2-2 being a common score at Fratton Park recently, Blue's fans we're right to be worried, as Tugay beat David James from 25 yards to bring parity to the game.
However, Pompey needed to get out of the 2-2 trend they had set themselves, and with around 10 minutes remaining on the clock, Papa Bouba Diop made a powerful 60 yard run which ended in a mighty shot which was well parried by Paul Robinson. A scramble followed and with Pompey fans and players appealing for a penalty, Sean Davis continued to play, squeezing through and finishing with a delicate chip over the advancing keeper. Pompey held on for their first home win under Adams and ended the month on a high.
PLAY UP POMPEY!