Pompey 4-2 Birmingham
Wed 12-03-08, 7.45pm
Would it be a case of 'after the lord mayors show' when Birmingham came to town at a packed out Fratton Park… maybe in terms of performance yes, in terms of result no, as we won 4-2.
Harry Redknapp made a number of changes, the defence remained the same, but John Utaka, Lassana Diarra and Kanu all dropped out - in came Pedro Mendes, Milan Baros and Jermain Defoe.
Pompey were 2-0 up in no time, a double from Jermain Defoe left us well on track, but Fabrice Muamba and Sebastian Larsson had them level by half time, Hermann Hreidarsson early in the 2nd half and Kanu late secured the win.
Within minutes of the start a run from Milan Baros resulted in his cross into the box, which ended with a penalty being given for a handball. Jermain Defoe stepped up and duly dispatched the penalty, sending Maik Taylor the wrong way.
I have never known a central defender get forward down the left wing as much as Sylvain Distin does, and another of his marauding runs eventually saw Sulley Muntari take over and his sweet strike forced Taylor into a save, Baros followed up but again Taylor saved however he could only spill the ball to the lurking Defoe who tapped home.
Within no time Birmingham were back in the game, a free kick was sent in and with the defence AWOL Fabrice Muamba stole in to reduce the deficit, and all of this within the opening 10 minutes…
Going in search of a penalty Mauro Zarate was booked for taking a dive, with Papa Bouba Diop then going closest for Pompey. Firstly he got in the best attacking header that I think I have seen him have for Pompey, but this went just wide, then he tried his luck from the edge of the area but this shot was saved by Taylor.
A third almost came for Pompey when Muntari floated in a free kick, which seemed to get a slight flick, maybe from Sol Campbell but either way it went behind for a corner after Taylor got a touch on it.
Early in the build up it did look like there as a handball - but nothing was given, then Birmingham got a free kick on the edge of the area. This was taken by Sebastian Larsson, from my side of the ground it looked as though it was a perfectly placed free kick, which made it 2-2, others think that maybe David James was possibly beaten too easily… either way it was 2-2 at half time, much to the delight of the travelling fans!
Early in the 2nd half the lead was restored again, a free kick was knocked on and from close range Hermann Hreidarsson swept home in front of the Fratton End to make it 3-2.
Defoe was on course for his first Pompey hat trick when he was played through - but he blazed into the crowd, a dangerous free kick floated into the box and flicked on seeing Birmingham come close, but luckily this was straight into the waiting hand of James.
A surging Glen Johnson run - despite being pulled back by his shirt once again, and not for the last time - eventually saw him play through Baros who went down claiming a penalty, but nothing was given. He seemed convinced, I was not sure as I could not really tell from my seat…
After repeatedly giving away the ball Bouba Diop finally saw his race run when Lassana Diarra came on to replace him - unfortunately, and unusually he gave the ball away just as much… in all fairness though everyone was doing this in the 2nd half!
We seemed almost nailed on for another when Baros led the charge. With Defoe and Niko Kranjcar to chose from, he eventually picked out Kranjcar - which I thought was the wrong option - who forced Taylor into a save.
Our 2nd change we made of the night saw Kanu on for the hard working Baros.
Shortly after his own arrive Birmingham sub Cameron Jerome saw an effort well turned away by James. The volley was destined for the top corner but he saved well.
In order to try and wrap thing up Lauren came on for Defoe, and after a few anxious moments it was Lauren who led a late break away, he played in Pedro Mendes who put in a cross for the unmarked Kanu who finished with a diving header - he was knackered after.
First off, I thought Hermann Hreidarsson was fantastic!
The main stat is the 4-2 win, but again we were not great, the 2nd half showing was awful, I cannot recall us ever giving the ball away as much as we did. At times we looked really good, others really bad and a better team than Birmingham would have taken advantage.
It was interesting to see a near sell out at Fratton Park last night, the cynical would say they knew why, considering those that went will 'apparently' have a better chance of getting semi final tickets… granted I am not able to get there as much as I would love to anymore - where I live and finances hit me, but the number of people being shown to seats seemed to tell its story to me… despite being there I will have no ticket to look to redeem anyway, as I was borrowing a mates season ticket anyway! But then again I was going to this game weeks ago anyway…
PLAY UP POMPEY!
Pompey 4 - Jermain Defoe 6 (pen), 8, Hermann Hreidarsson 49, Kanu 90
Birmingham 2 - Fabrice Muamba 9, Sebastian Larsson 39
Papa Bouba Diop (Lassana Diarra 62)
Milan Baros (Kanu 72)
Jermain Defoe (Lauren 85)
Substitutes Not Used