Date:Saturday April 7 2007
Saturday 07-04-07, 5:15pm
As the season draws closer to an end and with it Pompey's chances of a European place fade, or so most will have you think, we welcomed United to Fratton today. We sent them away with nothing after a 2-1 victory!
The late news that Sol Campbell would miss out was a major blow and certainly unwanted, Djimi Traore came in. Despite scoring a cracking goal last weekend against Fulham Niko Kranjcar had to settle for a place on the bench, the hard working Matty Taylor came in. Harry Redknapp opted for two up front, despite fears he may play the lone man. This partnership saw Kanu and Benjani retain their places, Svetoslav Todorov was named among the substitutes.
Undeservedly so, I don't think so, Pompey took the lead on 30 minutes as Matty Taylor followed up after Edwin Van Der Sar could only parry weakly. Victory was wrapped up, or so we thought, as injury time approached as Rio Ferdinand comically scored an own goal. Our nerves were set jangling again as an error from an otherwise superb David James gifted John O'Shea an injury time goal. James redeemed himself with an even later brilliant save as we held on.
Pompey kicked off in the early evening sunshine, starting well playing the ball round nicely, getting stuck in and not being intimidated. Cristiano Ronaldo was being roundly booed as unlike so many fans this season what went in Germany last summer had not been forgotten, as I felt sure would be the case!
The first attempt on target at either end came from Kanu. The Nigerian flicked a looping header towards the United goal but saw his effort saved beneath the bar from Edwin Van Der Sar.
A typical Ronaldo burst at pace from midfield saw him bare down on the Pompey goal but he couldn't do anything but shot wide. This had come moments after he had sent a dubiously given free kick wide of David James' goal from range.
On the half hour Pompey took the lead. Kieran Richardson wanted far too much time on the ball, just outside his own penalty area and was robed by Gary O'Neil. The ball fell to Benjani who drove in a fierce effort from the edge of the area that Van Der Sar could only parry away, this parry was converged on by Rio Ferdinand and Matty Taylor but it was Taylor who got to the ball first to fire past Van Der Sar. As venomous an effort as Benjani's was Van Der Sar should have done better with it, but do we care!
Immediately United threatened an equaliser, with the defence sleeping as often happens after a goal Michael Carrick found himself in but could only shot wide. Right after United were through again but James denied Fletcher when clean through with his legs. Mark Clattenberg then waved away United appeals, rightly so as Linvoy Primus perfectly timed a challenge to deny Wayne Rooney.
Pompey were sitting back, inviting United into the game a little but we were still do more than enough to hold them at bay and could have found a second through Primus but he couldn't keep his header down. An even better chance on the stroke of half time somehow saw the ball find its way through to Taylor who attempted to flick over Van Der Sar but he saved very well.
Just ten seconds into the second half Rooney had the ball in the Pompey net but the flag had long since gone up for offside. It looked close and was probably the wrong call, but again did we care!
The pressure we were under in the early stages of the second half was expected but we stood up to the challenge and almost broke away with a second. Van Der Sar again only parried, but this time his parry from Kanu fell to safety.
On the hour Ole Gunnar Solskjaer arrived for United from the bench and my heart sank, this was almost proved fully justified as a goalmouth scramble that I think involved him eventually saw the danger cleared. Ronaldo's flick towards goal was saved brilliantly by James, with I think Davis denying Wes Brown in a follow up before Solskjaer got in on the act but was again blocked.
Having just brilliantly denied Ronaldo James did the same, but with an even better save to deny Ryan Giggs with a swerving long ranged effort, tipping over the bar before claiming Brown's header from the resulting kick. The pressure was on but we were still holding firm, more than coping with it and but for a brilliant save from Van Der Sar at the other end to deny Davis, with a cleverly controlled volley it would have been two.
67 minutes saw the first Pompey change, the hard working Benjani who had run for pretty much every minute, as he usually does was replaced by Lomana LuaLua.
As Rooney appealed to the referee for another penalty, he was again turned away by Clattenberg and again rightly so. With Rooney clean through Primus timed his challenged brilliantly to clear what would have almost certainly been an equalising goal, although who can say James wouldn't have saved anyway!
Another man who had worked tirelessly today, Kanu - a man who has come in for mass criticism recently, some of which I feel is beyond unfair came off on 81 minutes to be replaced by Niko Kranjcar.
United kept searching for the equaliser but it just didn't look like coming and remarkably Rio Ferdinand put through is own net in the 90th minute to surely secure another Pompey victory over United at Fratton. When clearing up the danger, attempting to pass back to Van Der Sar he only rolled it beyond him and into the empty net as Van Der Sar charged out. Something similar happened a few years back involving Ferdinand at Fratton I believe.
Victory was looking certain but an instant reply from John O'Shea in injury time brought United hope. The Irishman capitalised on an error from the excellent James, who spilled Solskjaer's effort through the crowed to the waiting O'Shea. As with Van Der Sar's error James will feel he should have done better. There was still time for Alan Smith to be brilliantly denied by James again in the fourth and final minute of injury time with the full time whistle greeted with rapturous applause.
Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. Every man was outstanding today, gave all the had to give and more. The crowd are always good but even they were a notch above.
I've had confidence all week that we would win and we did, this wavered slightly with fears we may play just the one up front, but this was not seen. The news Sol Campbell would miss out worried me slightly but not enough to fear anything other than victory.
We generally achieve victory over one big boys during the course of a season and we've done this. Hear is to doing the same against Liverpool and Arsenal before the season ends! European dreams will be well and truly alive if we follow up this victory with one over Watford on Monday. Let's not make today's good work go to waste.
PLAY UP POMPEY!
Pompey 2 - Matty Taylor 30, Rio Ferdinand 89 (own goal)
United 1 - John O'Shea 90
Benjani (Lomana LuaLua 67)
Kanu (Niko Kranjcar 81)
Substitutes Not Used
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Date:Saturday April 7 2007
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