Saturday 16-08-06, 12:45pm
Pompey extended their unbeaten run to five matches, with a fifth consecutive clean sheet with a 1-0 victory over Charlton.
A 75th minute strike from substitute Lomana LuaLua seeing Pompey record their first victory over Charlton at the Valley in the top flight in almost 50 years.
With the prospect of a return to the top of the Premiership on offer Pompey named an unchanged side, indeed unchanged squad from that which had faced Wigan seven days earlier, meaning no place for the new boys, this will surely come on Tuesday...
It would be Charlton that would first threaten, less than a minute in Marcus Bent would see his header come back off the bar after the fine delivery into the box from the often erratic Dennis Rommedhal, from the follow up, although I'm still not certain I think Darren Bent may well have struck the post?
Sublime skill from Kanu on the half way line would see him slide in Gary O'Neil, the midfielders bust into the box would see his cross cut out for a Pompey corner.
After the frantic opening, which may not have seen a host of chances created for either side Kanu would be denied what would have been a free header at goal by a superb defensive header from Tal El Karkouri.
Having seen Sol Campbell caught out of position Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink would create an opening, with Glen Johnson performing a good defensive block to prevent his shot possibly hitting the target, which David James, scrambling across his goal could not prevent going for a corner. This corner would see an El Karkouri header whistle narrowly wide of James' far post.
Shortly after Hasselbaink had wriggled free to force a shot that would lack the power needed to trouble James, Benjani would rise like a salmon making a good contact with his header yet he could not quite hit the target.
Nice interplay between Kanu and Pedro Mendes would see the Portuguese star have his first meaningful effort on goal, following his early tame effort; however his 20-yard drive would go just wide.
Scott Carson's first real meaningful save would have to be made from Kanu; a shot possibly hitting the post anyway would be turned away by the on loan 'keeper for a corner, a good save nevertheless.
As Pompey assumed control of the game they should have taken the lead shortly before the half hour mark. A probing Johnson run down the right would end with a great cross to the head of Kanu, who with the goal at his mercy, which despite him being under a little pressure from a defender, he should have done better. Had he hit the target instead of sending his header wide Pompey would have taken a well deserved lead, his and Harry Redknapp's frustration could not be hidden.
This Kanu miss seemed to spark Charlton into life as a sustained spell of possession would then be put upon Pompey, with this only being broken by a poor back pass resulting in a Pompey corner, from which Campbell would get a powerful header too but this would lack direction.
A fine sliding challenge from former Pompey midfielder Amdy Faye would deny the otherwise quiet Benjani as he prepared to pull the trigger following a fine run.
With Pompey enjoying the lion share of possession Charlton almost feasted upon the scraps as another El Karkouri header would come and go, with the Moroccan always leaning back his header was always likely to go over the bar.
Shortly after as the referee enthusiastically blew his whistle everyone knew what was coming. O'Neil's cynical pull back on the shirt of the attacking Charlton player resulting in the former England U21 International captain picking up the games first booking.
On the stroke of half time Pompey should have taken the lead, with Benjani free to his right, and Kanu, maybe not quite so free to his left, Sean Davis decided to go it alone and crafted his own effort to no avail. A half in which Pompey shaded, without doubts in terms of possession Redknapp will have felt we should have ended it ahead.
With Charlton conceding most of their goals in the second half Pompey would have cause for optimism, which would almost be realised in the opening sixty seconds. Kanu's flick putting in O'Neil; however he would be called up for a handball.
Pompey continued to maintain the possession but a break away, started by Faye, would end with Darren Ambrose left with a sight at goal but his effort would balloon over the bar into crowd.
As in the first half, a moment of possible significance seemed to spur on Charlton into action. Pompey would repeatedly be stretched as Charlton, with the crowd vocal seemed to grow in confidence.
A frustrating day for Benjani would end on 63 minutes as he was replaced by Lomana LuaLua, who would immediately have an effort on goal, which would be safely gathered by Carson in the Charlton goal.
Only a last ditch challenge from the once again superb Linvoy Primus would deny Luke Young as the Charlton skipper surged down the left, almost forcing his way all the way through.
The shot of the game up to this point would come from Rommedhal, his 20-yard volley inches wide, James at full stretch may not have got across had it been on target?
Pompey started dropping back deeper and deeper as Charlton had a sustained period of possession, constant long balls out of defence kept coming back, so Pompey were inviting constant pressure upon themselves.
With cry`s of "pass it" ringing out around me LuaLua decided against this, and after working himself an opening he would beat Carson low to his right with his effort into the bottom left hand corner of the net. With Koroman waiting on the sidelines he would be sent back to the bench as LuaLua left us with our hearts in our mouths as he performed his shorten version of his famous summersault, a sight that most of us would still prefer not to see even in it's shortest form as we often know what happens when he does it...
As time ebbed away all that would be needed for Pompey would be for them to keep it tight at the back, but this is easier said than done. Half chances fell to Matt Holland and Darren Bent, both shot high over the bar, with Ambrose also following suit with five minute to go.
As Charlton pressed great skill from LuaLua would see a ball cut back narrowly avoiding O'Neil who had gambled with a run into the box. With the goal empty he was unable to get the merest of touches that would be needed to divert it into the net to secure victory.
The final minutes would prove to be a very nervous few minutes at the back for Pompey. Slight mistakes were being made and the ball constantly given away however we had done enough to record our third straight when as we ran out 1-0 winners to return to the top of the Premiership again if only for a day.
So four out of five wins, still unbeaten and after five games, that's over 450 minutes, seven and a half hours plus of football without conceding a goal, can things get much better? A note for you to ponder, another clean sheet against Bolton in our next game would see us equal Chelsea's Premiership record of six successive clean sheets, moving us closer to our club record of eight consecutive, dare we think of achieving this...
Pompey - LuaLua 75
Dejan Stefanovic (c)
Gary O'Neil (David Thompson 89)
Benjani (Lomana LuaLua 63)
Substitutes Not Used
Linvoy Would again be fantastic for Pompey, a number of last ditch challenges and important blocks would save Pompey. Campbell had another decent game, however once again Primus would look as though he would be the England International.