Mendes Off In Pompey Draw
Saturday 02-12-06, 3pm
Pompey entertained Villa today with us looking to build on our Fortress Fratton tag. We managed to fight back from a goal down to lead but had to settle for a 2-2 draw in the end.
Niko Kranjcar, David Thompson, Richard Hughes and Benjani all dropped out of the team that battled to a point against Liverpool in midweek with Manuel Fernandes, Kanu and the returning Lomana LuaLua and Glen Johnson coming in. The four dropping out were named on the bench.
Villa took a 1-0 lead into half time thanks to Gareth Barry's penalty but Matty Taylor brought us level before putting us ahead with a penalty of our own only for Juan Pablo Angel to equalise shortly after before Pedro Mendes was sent off late on for a second bookable offence.
In front of the usual passionate Fratton faithful Pompey had the afternoons opening effort. Manuel Fernandes brought into the team having featured so little recently drilled a free kick into the Villa wall which then found its way to Kanu, who on the turn narrowly shot wide.
Matty Taylor forced a save out of his namesake Stuart Taylor in the Villa goal just before the twenty minute mark. His curling 30-yard free kick was parried to safety by the stand in Villa keeper, deputising for the injured Thomas Sorensen.
Pedro Mendes and Noe Pamarot tried there luck from range, both missing the target before Lomana LuaLua, returning from injury had a go himself from all of 30-yards. This effort was on target but Taylor gathered comfortably.
Just after the half hour Pompey were forced into making the games opening change. LuaLua pulled up holding his thigh so was replaced by Benjani. It looks as though LuaLua will be set for another spell on the sidelines having been hampered by injuries for much of this campaign already.
Having shown little attacking threat Villa suddenly found themselves with the chance to take the lead. Glen Johnson (making a quicker than expected return from injury) lost the ball in midfield to Steven Davis and with the Pompey defence exposed he found the dangerous Gabriel Agbonlahor who was fouled by David James. James was given a yellow card when he was perhaps fortunate not to have seen red? Although Agbonlahor was going away from goal and players were covering. Gareth Barry, who rarely makes a mistake from the spot didn't fail here with Villa's first attempt on goal he scored.
Shortly after Fernandes had shot the first effort of the second half over the bar Mendes picked up his first yellow card for a cynical foul on Milan Baros.
Minutes later we were level! Benjani's fine work gave him time to cross, this cross was met by the head of Matty Taylor who made no mistake, rising to beat Stuart Taylor from 12-yards with a delightful finish. Fratton Park erupted.
The early Pompey second half goal rattled Villa but they were not content to settle for a point just yet. James saved from Milan Baros as the hour approached, seconds later making a superb flying save to deny Barry a second from a 20-yard free kick. Super Jamo superbly tipped the quickly taken effort around the post coming from one side of the goal where he had been organising the wall to fly across to the other. England's number one indeed!
The work and effort of Benjani can never be called into question but once again he showed that his finishing isn`t what it could, or should be. Gary O'Neil's cross found the Zimbabwean but with the Villa defence opened up he wildly put over the top and into the crowd as we've seen all to often unfortunately.
Both sides were after a win and Pompey would have taken the lead but for the woodwork. With Stuart Taylor beaten Matty Taylor was denied a second by the bar, his 25-yard effort, which was arguably a cross looked in but came back off the frame of the goal.
Taylor had another effort that was saved before a Stilian Petrov (who as we all know could have been lining up for Pompey and not against us had things worked out differently) tested James.
Then came the moment we thought could have decided the game. Pompey won a penalty of their own. O'Neil's cross was flicked on by Taylor only to be blocked by Barry, but via the use of the hands so for the second successive home game we were awarded a penalty. Taylor stepped to slide the ball home with a finely taken penalty to also for the second successive home game see us come from behind to take a lead.
Unfortunately unlike the Watford game this wasn't a lead we could hold. Within two minutes as the concentration wondered Sol Campbell failed to clear a ball sufficiently, only finding substitute Juan Pablo Angel. The Columbian's shot deflected off Campbell to leave James stranded.
With five minutes to play Mendes received his second booking for a mistimed challenge on Gavin McCann. Having already avoided a second booking for the foul of Baros which gave Villa the free kick from which James made his world-class save from Barry he had to go this time.
Harry Redknapp acted immediately, Kanu was taken off with Richard Hughes, maybe a touch unlucky to have been left out in the first place following a good showing against Liverpool came on.
There was still time for McCann to shoot wide and Stuart Taylor to save a Hughes header before time was called after some three minutes of injury time in a pulsating second half.
Before the game despite this being at home although I was looking for a Pompey win with the amount of draws Villa have been involved in and to their credit the form they are in with them coming into this game off the back of a defeat I was expecting a draw.
After we fell behind I was more than happy for us to draw but having taken the lead I was disappointed we didn't turn one point into three. A lack of concentration from Campbell cost us here. A point is better than none but having been in a position to win three with time running out we have to be a little upset.
Mendes deserved to go, was lucky to have stayed on for the earlier foul and arguably James was also lucky to have been on the field to have made a couple of wonderful saves, including the exceptional save from Barry, but as I say Agbonlahor was going away from goal when fouled.
Everton home next weekend, another trough, tough game against another team that will be in or around the top six to ten places as we will be come May I'm sure. With Arsenal away after that three points will be very much needed against the toffees. Four out of six is something I would have taken, so lets hope we can deliver next week.
PLAY UP POMPEY!
Pompey - Matty Taylor 51 & 78 (Penalty)
Villa - Gareth Barry 37 (Penalty), Juan Pablo Angel 82
Kanu (Richard Hughes 86)
Lomana LuaLua (Benjani 34)
Substitutes Not Used