Grant grins as fortune smiles on Portsmouth
Southampton 1 Portsmouth 4: Inspired switch pays off as Owusu-Abeyie gets troubled club going at expense of Southampton
Sunday 14 February 2010
Having forced a replay in the Royal Courts of Justice last Wednesday, Portsmouth looked for a long time here as if they might need another but by the end of an atmospheric South-coast derby they had run away with victory, replicating the scoreline with which they sent their rivals out of the Premier League five years ago.
Facing extinction as much as relegation – m' learned friends have their replay on 1 March, five days before the Cup quarter-final – they did at least enjoy some of the breaks that have gone the way of others all season, their 4,000 supporters delighting in a rare bout of crowing.
Southampton, in a financial mess of their own a year ago but now backed by the Swiss businessman Markus Liebherr, were reduced to chants of "bring on the taxman". He will doubtless give Pompey as testing a fight as the home side did until they succumbed in the final quarter.
Like the weather, the tie warmed up slowly, bringing three goals in eight second-half minutes and then a clinching pair for the visitors. They benefited from a substitution by the much maligned Avram Grant, who had replaced Angelos Basinas, an unlikely holding midfielder, with the lightning pace, first seen in Arsenal colours, of Quincy Owusu-Abeyie. Now in Portsmouth blue on a loan from Spartak Moscow, he scored the opening goal, then made his team's second for Aruna Dindane and the fourth for the excellent Jamie O'Hara.
Where Basinas, once a European Championship winner with Greece, had often looked bewildered by the mayhem around him, O'Hara was equally creative and rather more rugged, as the occasion was always going to demand. Until Grant's tactical change, however, putting Owusu-Abeyie out wide and Papa Bouba Diop deeper to help a busy back four, the Tottenham man's promptings went unrewarded.
Southampton could claim to have had more of the first half, and their manager Alan Pardew duly did. "The disappointment was that we didn't score first," he said. "Psychologically it would have been tough for Portsmouth to come back. It was a really committed performance and David James earned his money."
Indeed, the England goalkeeper pulled off two fine saves during that period, as well as committing one howler. The first save was after only 10 minutes, somehow keeping out a header at the far post by Papa Waigo; just before half-time he pulled off an even better one as the right-back Wayne Thomas met a corner. In between times, however, there was a nasty moment as Rickie Lambert's corner flew straight through his hands on to the head of Radhi Jaidi, who could not take advantage.
The few occasions that Portsmouth threatened in that half, only O'Hara looked like defeating Kelvin Davis, whose one important save was to touch the midfielder's 30-yard drive over the bar. Briefly, the second half appeared destined to imitate the first, though the impression proved illu-sory. In the 46th minute Adam Lallana forced James into his third high-grade stop as he headed down a cross from Antonio, the long-throw specialist.
The Premier League's bottom club were just starting to improve, Dindane twice encouraging their followers, when Grant made the crucial change. Owusu-Abeyie clearly had the beating of his full-back, Thomas, and within a few minutes the home captain Dean Hammond sparked the only real flare-up of the game by clattering into him. Undismayed, the Dutchman was in the right place for a cool finish in the 66th minute as John Utaka turned on a corner to him.
One Pompey fan, bravely cheering the goal in Southampton's main stand, was just being escorted downstairs as the home supporters around him had their own back. To the surprise of most locals, Lambert, the leading scorer, had been taking many of the set-pieces himself, but this time he was where they wanted him, on the end of the free-kick that Dan Harding curled over for a powerful header past James.
Only four minutes had elapsed between the goals and in four more Portsmouth were back in front. Owusu-Abeyie's pace made this one, a thrilling run setting up Dindane for a clever dinked finish..
Then with eight minutes left came a crucial third goal for the visitors. O'Hara sent Nadir Belhadj away and the left-back, an Algerian whose forays England must beware at the World Cup, dummied the goalkeeper before scoring. Southampton had begun to push forward recklessly and they were punished again, harshly, with one of day's neatest moves, finished by O'Hara.
Grant walked to the Portsmouth fans at the finish, clearly enjoying the moment, though he was soon being asked to contemplate the future. "I have a feeling the court understands and will think about the fans, players and staff," he said. "If they need to punish somebody, then punish the people who did things wrong."
Referee: Howard Webb
Man of the match: O'Hara
Match rating: 7/10
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