Rooney The Difference
Saturday 27-01-07, 5:15pm
The FA Cup Fourth Round saw us travel to Old Trafford for the challenge of gargantuan proportions to face Man United. Despite more than holding our own for the vast majority of the match Wayne Rooney's class proved enough as we went out 2-1
Gary O'Neil returned from suspension with Richard Hughes and Niko Kranjcar also coming in. Andrew Cole started as the lone striker with Kanu dropping to the bench and Sean Davis missing out through injury.
A controversial goal line clearance surrounding Pedro Mendes, this time clearing the ball from over the line should have seen United take a half time lead, as it was it wasn't given and we got through to half time at 0-0. It took the introduction of Rooney in the second half and a double strike, one of the utmost quality to kill us off. Kanu's goal (not that he knew much about it!) gave us a glimmer of hope but it wasn't to be.
The brighter start was made by Pompey and on three minutes Pompey shouts for a penalty with Gary O'Neil seeming to be brought down by Tomas Kuszczak but referee Mike Wiley (unsurprisingly) saw things differently, although in fairness he was probably right.
Richard Hughes, adding that extra bite into a five man midfield which would have to be at its very best would be the first man, unlikely as it might have seemed to have an attempt on goal. After some fancy footwork he worked an opening before shooting over.
A lively opening then saw United take the lead; or so it seemed! Following a Pedro Mendes mistake in midfield United broke quickly with Sol Campbell reading the danger to clear for a corner. From this Nemanja Vidic rose high to power a header that David James could only parry towards the goal to be cleared by Mendes on the line...thing was Mendes was a good foot over it! How ironic that the man denied a goal from the half way line against United in his Spurs days when it was clearly over the line should deny United here!
A good open game was seeing Pompey break but with no end product with a lot of this at the opposite end but for saving challenges from Campbell most notably we would have fallen behind but we more than held our own in the opening half an hour.
With Pompey looking comfortable stringing together some fine passes suddenly United broke again. Exposed with Ryan Giggs through his pull back was seeking out Henrik Larsson in the box with Lauren's intervention almost putting past his own keeper but James reacted well to keep it out and we escaped at the expense of a corner. From this corner James had to be at his best to keep out Michael Carrick's header, tipping it over to keep the scores at 0-0. And so it stayed at half time.
Neither side made a change a half time and with it less than two minutes old Linvoy Primus (an 18/1 shot to score with a bet put on I may add!) nearly gave Pompey the lead. His header from Matty Taylor's cross very nearly found the top corner of the net, brushing the netting as it cleared the bar.
Again we were more than holding our own often breaking in numbers, putting together some fine moves but rarely finding the end product, but one such break saw Mendes square the ball to Andrew Cole made minimal contact when in a great position.
The Pompey defence was holding a good line but the one time we were genuinely breached (not at our own doing) Larsson was in and a fine volleyed finish beat James and sent the United fans crazy but these celebrations were cut short with the referees assistance flag ruling it out for offside.
We reacted well to this but then United had a sustained period of pressure with James again having to be at his best to deny Paul Scholes. With 60 minutes on the clock Sir Alex had seen enough it was time for Wayne Rooney, gulp! Harry Redknapp reacted immediately calling Kanu over bringing him on for Cole.
As the match got closer to closer to the end I started thinking that if we could somehow find a goal we could do it but also feared one laps of concentration, one moment of brilliance could win it for United and with thirteen minutes to play a combination of both saw Rooney break the deadlock. With the ball given away in midfield United broke and a sweeping move saw Giggs pick out Rooney unmarked to tap home.
As the game entered the final ten minutes Redknapp decided it was time to abandon the five man midfield and give Kanu a partner up front so Niko Kranjcar was withdrawn in place of Benjani, minutes later he went for broke Hughes was taken off and Rudolph Douala brought on.
No sooner had the final Pompey change been made Rooney made victory all but assured with a fantastic strike which left James rooted to the spot. Expert vision and technique saw him chip England's number one.
To set up what would have hopefully then be a frantic end to the game with three minutes to play Mendes' deflected effort from the edge of the area left Kuszczak wrong footed. The deflection actually came off Kanu for his eleventh of the season. It wasn't to be we couldn't create that chance and the FA Cup dream died for another year.
Gutted, don't care what anyone says I'd have taken an extended Cup run any day of the week, winning the Cup gets you into Europe and gains you silverware, I'd have sacrificed a top six place (obviously with the winning of the Cup at the end!) for this; as it is it wasn't to be so we can now concentrate on the league and make sure all our hard work of season so far doesn't go to waste and we get that top six place we deserve. No one has a god given right to this but if anyone deserves it we do!
We can take great heart from this performance, many better teams will come away from Old Trafford with far less than we have. We proved (albeit against maybe not the strongest United side) we can hold our own against the best, they won't be looking forward to their league visit to Fratton in April that's for sure. We can take a lot of pluses from this, Richard Hughes came in and again did a job, Niko Kranjcar looked the best I've seen him so far showing so quality touches, the one real minus for me was another poor performance from Glen Johnson.
Next up we face Boro at Fratton on Tuesday night as we look to bounce back from the disappointing defeat at the fortress against Charlton last time out in the league. Three points is a must!!!
PLAY UP POMPEY!
Man United 2 - Wayne Rooney 77 & 83
Pompey 1 - Kanu 87
Richard Hughes (Rudolph Douala 82)
Niko Kranjcar (Benjani 80)
Andrew Cole (Kanu 62)
Substitutes Not Used
What a performance Campbell put in, the defence on the whole looked great today and but for that little bit extra United had we would have got the draw Redknapp would have been happy with, maybe even nicked a win? Campbell was really up for this, his rivalry with United from his Arsenal days shone through today and he looked the best defender on the park. His England days are probably gone, and we've long since accepted this but he proved he's still good enough.