Pompey Finally Beaten
Monday 25-09-06, 8pm
Pompey entertained Bolton in Milan Mandaric's final match with us knowing that victory would see him end his reign with Pompey top of the Premiership, what a way that would be to bow out, sadly it wasn't to be...
Harry Redknapp named the side which started the Charlton game last weekend, restoring those rested from the Carling Cup victory over Mansfield to the starting XI. Only Manuel Fernandes would manage to force his way into an even otherwise unchanged substitutes bench in place of Ognjen Koroman.
Against the run of play, Pompey finally conceded their first Premiership goal of the season through Kevin Nolan's fine volley from the edge of the Pompey area midway through the first half, seeing them go in 1-0 down at half time, which proved to be the final score.
A frustrating night of missed chances for Pompey, and despite plenty of possession against a resolute Bolton side we just couldn't find a way through their defence, and in particular Jussi Jaaskelainen who made a string of fine saves as we suffered out first defeat of the season.
As the cries of "blue army" and "there's only one Milan" rang out around Fratton Park Bolton got proceedings underway, with David James getting an early touch following a long ball. Would this be a sign of things to come?
From the games first corner, with an almost unchallenged header Sol Campbell should have put Pompey ahead. Despite making good contact and heading down Sol couldn't get the direction right and headed wide, this certainly would be a sign of things to come...
Sean Davis however would fare better with his effort shortly after however, and had it not been for the post, and maybe a touch from Bolton goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen he certainly would have given Pompey a much deserved lead. Kanu's great cross field pass was knocked down by Benjani to Davis' run from midfield but his effort would hit the post before going to safety.
A quick throw out from Jaaskelainen, having claimed a corner which had come from a Pedro Mendes shot being deflected away, found El Hadji Diouf, who to a chorus of boos would make good ground before seeing his pull back headed to safety by Portsmouth's September Player of the Month Linvoy Primus.
Somewhat fortunately Kanu's attempted flick would find himself, but not needing a second invitation the tricky Nigerian would take on the shot from the edge of the box which would be beaten away by Jaaskelainen.
With Pompey having most of the possession the busy Jaaskelainen would again be called into action, this time superbly tipping away Matty Taylor's curling volley for a corner, which had been destined for the bottom right hand corner.
Totally against the run of play would come the moment you always feared, a Bolton goal. In the 22nd minute of our sixth Premiership game our defence was finally breached through a fine strike from Kevin Nolan, on the volley from the edge of the area.
Conceding the goal wouldn't alter the pattern of the first half too much, as Pompey remained in control for the most part, although Bolton did come into the game a little more, before Dejan Stefanovic tried his luck from the left edge of the penalty area, again to be denied by Jaaskelainen.
For once some poor Bolton defending would let in Benjani, who managed to get onto the end of Glen Johnson's long ball but his lob over the stranded Jaaskelainen drifted wide of the left hand upright and away for a goal kick.
Despite the obvious initial knock back of conceding, despite retaining the loin share of possession Pompey continued to create a series of half chances, a couple falling to Davis, the second of which would be more than a half chance in fact. After evading at least three challenges he would try his luck from 20-yards, only to once again be denied by the excellent Jaaskelainen.
The half time break did little to change the pattern of play, although there would be a heart stopping moment at the beginning of the second forty-five minutes as the otherwise quiet Nicolas Anelka's attempted cross almost caught David James out, but he managed to scramble back and keep the ball out.
The Benjani of old resurfaced soon after, as having done excellently to get himself in, when one on one with Jaaskelainen he blazed high and wide when he really should have done better, he should have at least worked the Finnish goalkeeper. Was it going to be one of those nights I thought to myself...
Right on cue, as I said bring on LuaLua, Harry Redknapp decided he'd seen enough and a change was needed, Lomana was told to get himself ready. Redknapp decided it was time to go all out at the Bolton defence and Taylor, who had been involved in a long running feud with Diouf, having just been booked would be removed in his place.
Having been on the field for only four minutes LuaLua was already infuriating the hell out of me, a couple of his trademark runs just wouldn't yield the final ball I was baying for, then after almost twenty minutes of constant Pompey possession Bolton almost grabbed a second. But good work from Dejan and Sol denied Nolan a break away goal.
A long throw in, when it eventually came from Ivan Campo, doing all he could to waste as much time as possible, could only be flicked on by Linvoy, but luckily for Pompey Nolan could only stab his effort from six yards over the top.
With fifteen minutes to go Redknapp played his last cards, Benjani and Mendes were removed for Manuel Fernandes, making his home debut, his league debut in fact, and David Thompson. Fernandes would announce himself to the Fratton faithful with a fine cross-field pass to Gary O'Neil.
Another LuaLua run, in which he was trying all he could to create a shooting opportunity for himself would eventually see him lay it back to Johnson, who's low effort skidded across the turf and wide to safety from a Bolton perspective.
With two minutes left to play, and Bolton getting more anxious, with every single man behind the ball a rash challenge would give Pompey a free kick roughly 25-yards out. Stefanovic fancied the effort, but his left footed strike would take a deflection, wide for a corner.
The board for four minutes of injury time was meet with a chorus of "blue army", but desperate defending, a last ditch blocks, one in particular from Nolan on Sol's effort prevented Pompey having that one final clear cut effort at goal, the last effort at Jaaskelainen just could be found and we were finally beaten.
It's a sad way for Mandaric to bow out, but if he'd been told we would be sitting third in the Premiership when he arrived when this day came I'm sure he'd have bitten your hand off. But for missed chances, and an inspired Jussi Jaaskelainen we'd have won this game comfortably.
This was such a frustrating defeat as we had so much of the possession and had so many chances, however not many of these were really clear cut, Benjani when clean through aside, so although it is disappointing to lose we did not do so with any shame. Bolton came to frustrate, and although not pretty they did what they had to do well so hats off to them.
So now Milan walks away, he'll be back, and probably at Fratton Park as an opposing Chairman as I think he'll be taking over Wolves or Leicester before to long? All the best Milan, thanks for giving us back our club, sorry we couldn't have seen you off with a win...
Bolton - Nolan 22
Dejan Stefanovic (c)
Pedro Mendes (David Thompson 75)
Matty Taylor (Lomana LuaLua 56)
Benjani (Manuel Fernandes 75)
Substitutes Not Used
A lot of players had good games for Pompey tonight, thought Davis was good, and O'Neil ran well as did Taylor. The back four again looked solid and controlled most of what was put in front of them, with Sol and Linvoy looking a great partnership.
Dejan I feel had a fine game, winning almost everything he went for, and he also got forward well. I personally prefer the Dejan Stefanovic at left-back to the late Dejan Stefanovic of central defence.
A mention must again be given to Jussi Jaaskelainen; overall Man of the Match would be the Bolton goalkeeper, made important saves at important time. Quality 'keeper who wins them more points than many people know.