Pompey 1-1 Fulham
Sun 26-10-08, 5pm
Late Dempsey Strike Rescues Point For Fulham
Fulham came away from Fratton Park with a point this evening, after a late Clint Dempsey goal cancelled out Crouch's earlier placed shot.
Enough has been said about the recent day's events, so this is a report of matters on the field, not off the field. Tony Adams and Joe Jordan made four changes to the team that were beaten 3-0 in Braga on Thursday. Diarra recovered from an injury, and was restored to the first team along with Richard Hughes, Nadir Belhadj and Younes Kaboul, who replaced Glen Little, Hermann Hreidarsson, the injured Sol Campbell and the suspended Sean Davis. Glen Johnson failed to overcome the injury that kept him out of the UEFA cup defeat, but Niko Kranjcar made the bench after recovering from a long-term injury. Fulham made no changes to the team that played out a 0-0 with Sunderland last weekend.
Despite being inferior opponents on paper, Fulham won this encounter last year, at the same time as securing their future in the Premier League. In Jimmy Bullard, Fulham had a tricky midfielder, and he certainly showed this as he almost scored within the first minute with a long range free kick that brushed past the post.
Portsmouth then took the game to Fulham, with Younes Kaboul almost scoring from a Diarra corner, only for Papa Bouba Diop to block his half-volley on the line. Pompey kept pressing forward, but Jermain Defoe was left frustrated by the Fulham defence, who caught him offside at nearly every attempt. Any break from Portsmouth was going to come from down the left, where Traore and Belhadj were keeping Pantsil and Murphy busy.
Belhadj almost put Portsmouth in front on the half hour. The Algerian's mazy run took him the length of half the pitch, but his final chip was just blocked by the oncoming Schwarzer. It was an amazing effort, and brought the Fratton crowd to the feet.
The home side continued to push forward, and Schwarzer had to get down well to save a long range effort from Richard Hughes, and he also saved from point blank range after Crouch managed to get on the end of a low cross.
Fulham were resorting to the long ball, with Kaboul and Distin easily dealing with anything the visitors had to offer. They did have the ball in the net before the break, but the linesman ruled Andy Johnson's effort to be offside.
The second half started brightly for Portsmouth, who seemed to push forward at every opportunity. Defoe and Traore repeatedly broke through the back line, but the final ball was constantly poor. In a similar fashion to the Stoke game, Defoe was allowed space to shoot from outside of the area, but he failed to make it count.
Defoe shaped to shoot from yet another Portsmouth breakaway, but instead he chose to lay the ball off to Crouch, who nicely placed the ball past Schwarzer to give Portsmouth the lead.
Portsmouth kept the momentum going, and Belhadj ran tricked his way into a shooting opportunity, only to see his effort crash back off of the post. Unfortunately for Portsmouth, Diarra and Traore picked up injuries late in the game, and were subsequently replaced by Mvuemba and Kranjcar. Niko looked like he had definitely filled out, and he certainly proved that he shouldn't be used in left midfield, as Fulham doubled up on Belhadj, leaving Erik Nevland free to cross for Clint Dempsey to convert.
Portsmouth were shocked, but with the crowd behind them, pushed forward for a late, late winner. Defoe managed to get free in the box, and laid it off to Kranjcar, who completely missed the ball, although Portsmouth may have a right to feel aggrieved, as it seemed that he may have been pushed. From Portsmouth's last attack of the game, Defoe was free again, and Niko Kranjcar this time made contact with the ball, only to hook it wide when he could have taken an extra touch.
Fulham will definitely be the happier of the two teams, as Portsmouth were on top for most of the game, and should have taken their chances to put the game away before Fulham pulled a goal back.
He didn't put a foot wrong all game, and kept Andy Johnson quiet. He kept the ball down, played it easy and made some key tackles.
Nadir Belhadj was equally as impressive, but sometimes he ran too much instead of paying it earlier, but he definitely showed that he will cause Liverpool's defence problems on Wednesday. Kranjcar showed some nice touches, but didn't finish when he had the chances. If he is to get back into the first team, I wouldn't suggest that it be on the left side of midfield, as he didn't get back enough, and took it inside instead of running down the wing. He may well have a key part to play in the future, but hopefully it is down the middle or along the right.
Next up for Pompey is Liverpool at Anfield on Wednesday. Next at Fratton is Wigan next Saturday.
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