Man United 2-0 Pompey
Wed 22-04-09, 8pm
I don't think anyone expected us to win, and I don't think anyone expected Hart to 'give it a go' and that was confirmed when the midfield trio of Davis, Mullins and Hughes were called in the 1st 11. The most interesting selection was Belhadj, who took the role of supporting the striker, Crouch, so a like for like swap with Niko Kranjcar.
The 1st half was awful, and we were incredibly lucky to go down 1-0 at the break. We weren't organized, and defensive mistakes and misplace passing where everywhere. The only way that we could of got anything, was to hold on for at least halftime, but a long diagonal ball to Giggs, who expertly controlled it, and rolled it to Rooney to tap in, saw to it that it would be a miracle to get the 3 points. That was the problem throughout the first half. We got forward well, but when we were in decent positions, or had a corner/freekick, we either wasted them and gave away possession, or just ran out of ideas. This business of punting up to or near Crouch needs to stop, at least against the better teams, because Vidic won near enough everything. Like I said, we were lucky to go in 1-0 down, with Jamo making a fantastic save 1-1 against Giggs, but could do little when Giggs had a near enough open net, but somehow put wide.
This gave encouragement to the Pompey fans, who were magnificent throughout. I got a really buzz from listening to the drums and bugle start up midway through the first half, and didn't realize how much of an effect it had on the fans. The only complaint with otherwise a fantastic stadium was the leg space. I literally couldn't sit down without turning to one side as the space was ridiculous.
Anyway, the first half ended, and it seemed that the second half would be damage limitation. The midfield trio wasn't working, and there just wasn't enough support given to Crouch. Belhadj, when on the ball looked very lively, and has incredible pace, but his finally pass lacked. At halftime, the introduction of Pennant was really needed, with Nugent going off with a dead leg. I would of liked to see Mullins or Hughes coming off as well, but that never happened.
The 2nd half was a lot better, and although we conceded another goal, I really thought that we could nick a goal. The too full backs, Herman and Johnson, gave everything going forward, and their commitment running back was brilliant. But unfortunately, even though we found ourselves in some decent areas, the final ball wasn't there, with Crouch having a couple of chances that may have gone in if he had connected better with the ball.
Our defending as a team improved as well, with Ronaldo, who I was really disappointed with, being tagged well, and I loved the moment where he had a free kick around 25 yards back, only for Richard Hughes to pick the ball up and move it another 5 yards back on the Referees blessing. Legend! However, Hughesy or Mullins, one of the two, shouldn't have played. Basinas was on the bench, and last time I saw him was at Stoke, where yes he wasn't great, but at Stoke you had little to no time on the ball. Here however, he could of really picked out some decent passes, whereas Hughes and Mullins just cleared things up, and it didn't really need 2 men to do it. I was impressed with Davis all game. He didn't do much awe inspiring, but made a few key tackles, and rarely gave away the ball.
As we were getting more and more encouragement to attack, another long pass by Scholes found Carrick unmarked on the edge of the box, who had plenty of time to hit a low strike that beat James and ended Pompey's hopes of taking everything from the game.
Overall, it really was a tale of two half's, and with a few changes for Monday, notably Basinas and Pennant starting, I believe we should be going to Newcastle with the belief that we can get the 3 points that will surely ensure premiership survival.