Football: Leeds see Pompey and die

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For George Graham this was the sort of performance that would have prompted another hard manager of my acquaintance to slam the dressing- room door and suggest pursuit of alternative employment.

Outplayed, outfought, defeated 3-2 by Portsmouth just when Graham was proclaiming the quality of their defending, Leeds were awful. "We went over things thoroughly, looked at a video of Portsmouth again this morning, didn't take them lightly, then we get out there, and nothing," Graham said.

England's loss to Italy in the World Cup at Wembley last week has raised questions about Glenn Hoddle but along with other startling events in the FA Cup here was proof that the excitement of Premier League football conceals alarming technical deficiencies.

How else can you explain the carnage? Leeds had not conceded a goal in their previous five games including a fourth- round victory against Arsenal at Highbury but they were thrown completely off stride by Portsmouth's intelligent, vigorously applied strategy. "We didn't change things very much from our normal way of playing," their manager, Terry Fenwick, said.

The trick, and you had to wonder whether Portsmouth's in-for-a pound chairman, Terry Venables, had a hand in this, was to push Paul Hall into lively support for Lee Bradbury and Mathias Svensson, who operated mostly in wide positions. "It forced me to make a change but that wasn't the reason why we lost," Graham added. "We were simply hopeless, so bad that I can't protect the players from criticism. They have to accept the responsibility."

Neither would Graham go along with the idea that a supposed gap in class was closed by an atrocious playing surface that made ball control and passing difficult.

The main reason why Portsmouth came out on top was that they went about things with more enlightened purpose. No one did better for them than David Hillier who was, ironically, recommended by Graham when Arsenal made him available. "When Terry asked about David, I said he would do a good job," Graham smiled. "That's how things can work out in this game, but good luck to the boy, I thought he was terrific."

Problems built up quickly for Leeds once Bradbury and Svensson began to drag Robert Molenaar and Lucas Radebe out wide. The alarm bells were soon ringing and Portsmouth were ahead after only seven minutes, when Alan McLoughlin got into no man's land to meet Bradbury's centre with a firm header. Had the Irishman not been injured in the process - the last goal I saw him score secured the Republic of Ireland a place in the 1994 World Cup finals - Leeds would have been out of the match before they had fully broken sweat.

McLoughlin, Portsmouth's penalty taker, had left the field when Gary Kelly, who was lucky to receive only a yellow card, handballed on the goal-line to keep out Bradbury's header. Fitzroy Simpson took the kick but not well enough to beat Nigel Martyn.

McLoughlin's departure led to Fenwick making an interesting decision. With Martin Allen all set to go on, Fenwick decided instead to replace McLoughlin with Sammy Igoe, whose industry added considerably to the problems Leeds were finding in midfield.

You could imagine some blistering remarks in the Leeds dressing room at half-time but nothing, it seemed, could shake Graham's players out of their torpor. Indeed, when Lee Bowyer equalised one thought was that they should have settled for a replay at Fratton Park on the basis of improvement.

If that entered their minds it did not survive long as an option. Another diagonal pass outwitted the Leeds defence, Molenaar made things easy for Svensson with an unnecessary challenge, and the big Swede, who was recommended to Portsmouth by Venables' former England scout, Ted Buxton, tucked the ball past Martyn.

Five minutes from time, and with Venables' taxi ticking over in the car park, Bradbury put the game beyond Leeds' reach after Svensson had again found space on the left. Bowyer cut Portsmouth's lead in injury time but, as Graham agreed, the scoreline flattered. "We were second best by a distance," he said. So much for clean sheets. So much for the Premiership.

Goals: McLoughlin (7) 0-1; Bowyer (52) 1-1; Svensson (67) 1-2; Bradbury (86) 1-3; Bowyer (90) 2-3.

Leeds United: (3-5-2); Martyn; Molenaar, Halle, Radebe; Kelly, Bowyer, Jackson (Rush, 79), Palmer, Dorigo; Wallace, Deane. Substitutes not used: Wetherall, Beeney (gk).

Portsmouth: (3-4-1-2); Knight; Thomson, Perrett, Awford; Pethick, McLoughlin (Igoe, 20), Hillier, Simpson (Dobson, 90); Hall; Bradbury, Svensson (Allen, 88).

Referee: P E Alcock (Redhill).

Bookings: Leeds: Kelly, Molenaar, Bowyer; Portsmouth: Pethick.

Man of the match: Hillier. Attendance: 35,604.