Date:Saturday March 15 2008
Sat 15-03-08, 3pm
Last weekend I - and others - said it was the start of a week that would make or break our season… we beat United, we beat Birmingham, today Villa came to town looking to boost their own European chances. Yet, we beat them too 2-0.
Harry Redknapp restored Lassana Diarra to the starting 11, Pedro Mendes was the unfortunate man to drop out. Injury ruled out Sol Campbell so Lauren came in with a reshuffle across the back 4 needed.
A good game saw us win through goals from Jermain Defoe and an own goal from Nigel Reo-Coker, the only draw back a sending off for Sulley Muntari, although he was joined by Villa's Olof Mellberg shortly after too.
A slippery surface did not prove too much for David James who saved comfortably from Shaun Maloney, who saw his effort after a couple of minutes the first of the afternoon.
Milan Baros again started brightly, and but for a better assistant referees decision he would have got in behind the Villa defence after what appeared to be a misjudged ball from Olof Mellberg, then but for a better touch Baros could have got in again.
After 11 minutes Pompey were ahead, Glen Johnson put in a brilliant ball that Jermain Defoe ran on to - showing fantastic movement, controlled expertly before lobbing Scott Carson who had come out to meet him.
But for James Villa would have levelled. John Carew got his head on a cross and as it picked up pace of the wet surface James flew across goal to turn it wide for a corner - right after this we broke and Carson was forced into a save from Baros.
The opening half an hour or so was fantastic, this flew by with both sides having a good say in things. The delivery that Villa were putting in was more often than not being defended well, which was something we knew we would have to do.
In unfortunate circumstances Pompey extended the lead to 2-0 with just over 5 minutes to play before half time. Sulley Muntari played in Defoe and as Carson came out to met him his clearance only hit Nigel Reo-Coker to go in for an own goal from all of 30 yards!
2-0 could have been 3-0 when a quick Pompey break saw them 3 on 3, Baros appeared to be pulled by Gareth Barry but nothing was given and the chance eventually fizzled out…
Virtually on half time, under the watchful eye of Fabio Capello once again James pushed home his England credentials with another fine save - a fingertip save turned Ashley Young's effort round the post. Villa pushed up for the corner and a Pompey break saw Defoe with a free run at goal, sadly Baros' ball was disappointing and the chance was wasted - half time arrived almost immediately after this.
In the opening minute of the 2nd half Papa Bouba Diop had his customary effort on goal - of course off target though… he will score… one day… Soon after Villa should have been back in the game when a good move ended with a good ball into the box from Maloney, but from just 3 yards out Gabriel Agbonlahor could not finish, when he really should have.
Breaking away gave us another change, with plenty waiting for a chance it was Niko Kranjcar who took the effort on, just missing the target when he put it into the side netting. Villa then again should have scored shortly after this chance, a fine delivery from Barry saw Zat Knight with a free header - but he put it wide from 6 yards.
Frustration started getting the better of Villa at times in the 2nd half with Martin Laursen appearing to be going after 'retribution' for what he felt was an elbow from Baros in the 1st half, then Mellberg picked up a booking for wrestling Kranjcar to the ground as he turned on the skills.
With Villa having a fair bit of possession in the 2nd half breaks always seemed our most likely avenue to kill off the game and once such break started by Lassana Diarra saw him play Baros away and his ball into the box saw Kranjcar miss a virtual sitter…
Villa did have the ball in the net through Marlon Harewood but this was ruled out for offside, then James again saved well from a Young free kick - turning this away for a corner.
The final 10 minutes saw us reduced to 10 men when Muntari picked up his 2nd booking of the day. He was unfortunate as his shirt pull was no worse than those that Villa had done during the game - with no punishment.
Harry Redknapp made his 1st change right after the sending off, John Utaka coming on for Defoe, with Kanu on for Baros shortly after.
The numbers were levelled up with time almost up. A cynical trip saw Mellberg pick up his 2nd booking, so he was off for an early bath too - that was enough to see us through.
It was a good game between two good sides who wanted to win, the difference being we defended very well, while Villa did not attack as well as they could have, we took our chances with an absolutely fantastic goal from the red hot Jermain Defoe and an unfortunate own goal from Nigel Reo-Coker.
We moved up to 50 points as a result of the win, and are now up to 6th - bring on the Spurs next week… The one draw back would be the red card to Sulley Muntari - and Olof Mellberg for Villa to be fair - as there was badly a bad foul in the game yet 2 players were send off…
As said at the start of the week I - and again, as said others - said this was a make or break week, well it certainly was not break was it as we won not once, not twice but three times in seven days!
PLAY UP POMPEY!
Pompey 2 - Jermain Defoe 11, Nigel Reo-Coker 38 o.g
Papa Bouba Diop
Milan Baros (Kanu 83)
Jermain Defoe (John Utaka 81)
Substitutes Not Used
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Date:Saturday March 15 2008
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