Pompey 2-1 Liverpool
Sat 28-04-07, 3pm
We kept our mini unbeaten run going today with a 2-1 victory over Liverpool at Fratton as we made our feelings towards the legendary Alan Ball, who sadly passed away during the week well and truly known.
An Achilles injury kept Sol Campbell out so Dejan Stefanovic filled in in central defence with Djimi Traore coming in. Glen Johnson also returned with Niko Kranjcar making way, he dropped to the bench.
In a first half that Pompey controlled we went in 2-0 at the break thanks to Benjani - capitalising on a mistake by Jerzy Dudek and Niko Kranjcar - an early replacement for the injured Matty Taylor after a superb cross field pass from Lauren. Liverpool reduced the deficit in the second half through Sami Hyypia but it wasn't enough.
An emotional day kicked of with David James picking up his award in recognition of his premiership clean sheet record amid chants of 'Alan Ball's blue and white army' - a cry that was heard for most of the afternoon.
After ten minutes of feeling each other out Robbie Fowler showed why I would be keen on us making a move to pick him up in the summer as he superbly finished a through ball. The flag had already been raised though and the goal was ruled out for offside.
Liverpool seemed intent on using the pace of Craig Bellamy to get in behind us and one such occasion saw the Welshman break the offside trap but he couldn't bypass Linvoy Primus who cleared the danger for a corner.
Pompey were forced into an early change when Matty Taylor took a knock from Fowler. After some treatment Taylor made it clear he couldn't continue, so just 20 minutes in Niko Kranjcar came on.
The best chance of the game so far came on 25 minutes. A Liverpool corner was claimed by David James and he set us on a quick break. Benjani's through ball released Gary O'Neil who was denied by a very good save from Jerzy Dudek at the expense of a corner. From this resulting corner it looked as though our chance had gone, especially when Glen Johnson passed back to James, but his long ball found its way through to Benjani who beat Dudek to the ball as he hesitated before nodding into the empty net.
Minutes later it was 2-0! Kanu held the ball up brilliantly as we again launched a quick counter, laying it off to Lauren who superbly first time passed across field to Kranjcar - who got away from a Liverpool defence drawn to the ball. Kranjcar showed great composure to roll passed Dudek.
It took Liverpool 40 minutes for their first real strike on James' goal, but this, a thirty yard drive never looked like troubling James and he watched it go harmlessly wide. However on the stroke of half time Boudewijn Zenden's effort certainly did have James beaten but we were saved by the woodwork. A superbly struck thirty yard half volley beat James but came crashing back off the bar.
The second half got underway again amid the continuous chants of 'Alan Ball's blue and white army', something that was continuously sang for a good 10-15 minutes non-stop and again through the rest of the half.
Liverpool came out in the second half looking to push on far more but we still put together some nice passing moves and almost secured the three points through Benjani early in the second half. Benjani again got the better of his marker and got in behind the Liverpool defence but this time Dudek denied him well.
The goal Liverpool had been looking for came soon after this save, which seemed to give Liverpool that violent shake they needed. Sami Hyypia evaded his markers to head home from a Mark Gonzalez corner as the hour mark approached.
Liverpool were threatening even more and shortly after the goal the could have been in for an equaliser. Fowler's through ball found Bellamy but Primus made a last ditch challenge to deny him.
Pompey did have the ball in the net for a third time when Kanu rounded Dudek to slot home after Benjani's pass but the whistle had long since gone and the flag raised for offside.
Just after Bellamy had threatened - he just couldn't get the ball out from under his feet a Pompey break with pace almost saw Benjani in, but good defending prevented this and kept the scores as they were. Then came Pompey change number two. Lomana LuaLua came on for Kanu for the final 20 minutes and he could have scored our third but for another good save from Dudek.
There were calls for a Pompey penalty as LuaLua was sent tumbling in the box but nothing was given and probably right so, but then Liverpool broke and went up the other end. James had to be at his best to deny Fowler, standing tall to deny him before pouncing on the loose ball.
Deep into injury time Liverpool had one last chance. From another corner Gabriel Paletta got his head to the ball but headed wide under pressure. Then Harry Redknapp made his third and final change, to get the standing ovation he deserved Benjani came off with Sean Davis coming on for all of 30 seconds - and even these 30 seconds were far longer than should have been added by the referee.
On an emotional day for English football as the country paid respect and tribute to the legendary Alan Ball. Pompey more than did just that as 'Alan Ball's blue and white army' echoed around Fratton throughout the afternoon. It was fitting that Pompey should emerge victorious over Liverpool - the fiercest rivals to the club Bally had his most successful spell with in club football Everton.
We worked had for what we got today and deserved the three points, albeit against a much changed Liverpool side. Much like the United game of a few weeks back I was convinced we would emerge victorious and once again we did to keep our European dreams well and truly alive as we moved back up to 7th, at least until Monday.
PLAY UP POMPEY!
Pompey 2 Benjani 27, Niko Kranjcar 32
Liverpool 1 Sami Hyypia 59
Matty Taylor (Niko Kranjcar 20)
Benjani (Sean Davis 90)
Kanu (Lomana LuaLua 71)
Substitutes Not Used