Pompey 3-1 Derby
Sat 19-01-08, 3pm
We expected a win and goals when Boro came to town just after Christmas, but we not only failed to score, we forgot to play and also forgot that we are meant to prevent the opposition from scoring too - and lost, we have not returned home since...
We had waited several weeks for this moment, surely victory would be achieved against lowly Derby we thought, and anything other than a victory would just be unthinkable... for a while it looked like this might happen when we were 1-0 down - but we came back to win 3-1
Lassana Diarra came in for his debut, being one of 3 changes from the Sunderland defeat, the other 2 being Glen Johnson - returning from injury - and Lauren being recalled. The men that missed out were Arnold Mvuemba and Richard Hughes who dropped to the bench and captain Sol Campbell - who was injured in the warm up.
Fellow new boy Lucien Aubey took his place on the bench. Darren Moore - fondly remembered - and Laurent Robert - not so - returned to Fratton Park with Derby.
It looked dodgy for a while when we were 1-0 down but when the drought ended the floodgates opened and a Benjani hat trick - his 2nd of the season - completed the turnaround and a much needed home win.
A nightmare start saw Derby ahead after less than 5 minutes. Laurent Robert sent in a dangerous free kick - which was poorly defended - leaving Kenny Miller free to turn onto the bar and eventually it was bundled in by Lewin Nyatanga.
Less than a minute later but for David James it would have been 2-0, but he stood up to save from Miller, then Dave Nugent missed a glorious opportunity when he blazed over.
Again we were opened up at the back - where we were looking very shaky - and Miller did turn the ball into the net - but he was offside.
Lauren tried a shot, which was not that great but moments later following some fine work of his own Niko Kranjcar sent an effort inches wide from range, and Kranjcar forced Lewis Price into his first save shortly after after a nice knock down from Benjani.
Little was happening, but then after 9 hours and 37 minutes we finally scored a home goal as Benjani scored his 10th of the season. Good play involving Nugent and Pedro Mendes saw the ball come to Benjani on the edge of the area who turned well to smash home with half time approaching.
Lassana Diarra - who was having a fine debut - marked this with a booking for what seemed nothing.
From being 1-0 down we were 2-1 up before half time as 4 minutes later on 42 minutes an unmarked Benjani sent home a bullet header to turn the game around.
We started the 2nd half brightly with Benjani and Nugent linking up well and this link up almost brought a chance for Nugent, but this was blocked out for a corner.
Benjani competed his 2nd hat trick of the season - in only 17 minutes - as a break saw Mendes break free, a fine reverse ball picked out Benjani and he finished fantastically well in front of the Fratton End - the last time we scored at home he scored a hat trick in 'that' win over Reading.
Craig Fagan reminded us shortly after that although we were looking comfortable that it was not quite over yet as his drive went close, and then Hossam Ghaly forced James into a save - both before the hour mark.
Another Kranjcar free kick went very close as we looked to sew up the 3pts.
To a standing ovation with 9 minutes to play an absolutely shattered Diarra made way, with Richard Hughes coming on.
We were looking dangerous for most of the 2nd half and did seem as if we could score more goals when we came forward, we were just being blocked out at the last - the closest being Kranjcar who curled narrowly wide.
Towards the end of the game Derby had a chance to make it a nervy few moments at the end but Giles Barnes was denied by James, shortly after this Benjani was taken off - also to a standing ovation - with Arnold Mvuemba coming on.
The first goal that we scored at home for so long really lifted a weight off our shoulders, you could feel this from the crowd and it was evident among the players and the 2nd goal completed this transformation.
Lassana Diarra had a fine debut but tired in the 2nd half and Pedro Mendes had his best game for some time, he and Niko Kranjcar turning on the skills.
The Benjani and Dave Nugent pairing looked good, and is certainly worth looking at again. Nugent appeared to do everything right apart from score... Benjani once again showed why he is wasted when used out wide, through the middle and he is lethal.
Sol Campbell missing out was a surprise, the 'official' line is that he picked up a back injury? Word that is filtering through - and this has not be confirmed and cannot be said is gospel - is that Campbell and Harry Redknapp had an argument and he did a runner...
PLAY UP POMPEY!
Pompey 3 - Benjani 38, 42, 55
Derby 1 - Lewin Nyatanga 4
Lassana Diarra (Richard Hughes 81)
Benjani (Arnold Mvuemba 90)
Substitutes Not Used
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