Mokoena rises to seal late win

Coventry City 1 Portsmouth 2 <i>(aet)</i>
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The Independent Online

An embarrassing exit to lower league opposition would have probably figured as a footnote at the end of this calamitous season for Portsmouth but Aaron Mokoena's late winner will have helped to finally improve the mood of increasingly disillusioned manager Avram Grant.

Mokoena prevented a premature departure from the competition that Portsmouth won two years ago with a dramatic header in the final seconds of extra time to set up a home tie with Sunderland in the next round.

Maybe fortune is finally turning for Grant, after Stephen Wright's disastrous own goal gifted him a reprieve in the form of extra time. It was a reprieve they duly took full advantage of, though they left it very late.

Portsmouth's problems this season have been so constant that their story would even be dismissed by the most daring of Hollywood script writers as fanciful. Yesterday the club's former chairman Milan Mandaric was charged with two counts of cheating the public revenue, relating to his time at Fratton Park. He will appear before magistrates next month charged with evading tax and National Insurance contributions on a sum of £183,000 which was paid to another un-named person through a bank account in Monaco. This was yet another night to bewilder, too, with 500 half-naked travelling fans dancing their way out of the stands in elation at the end.

"Am I am a lucky manager? Not after what that penalty in Moscow with Chelsea," Grant said. "I'm very proud of the players. I don't see many clubs in this situation that continue fighting and never give up. We showed a lot of character. We only had 17 players here and key players injured but I'm very proud of them."

It is difficult not to feel sympathy for Grant. Only 19 months ago he was leading Chelsea out in the Champions League final but his hangdog expression is a perfect fit on the south coast. With a transfer embargo, invisible owners and a club seemingly destined for the Championship, he must be already able to write a thesis on anger management.

His temper would not have been improved when Coventry took a stunning lead midway through the first half when Leon Best swivelled 20 yards out to plant an unstoppable effort into the corner. A deserved win looked odds on for the home side but as time ebbed away a searching cross from Angelos Basinas created panic in their defence and Wright, Coventry's captain, watched in horror as his attempted clearance went in off the crossbar.

Portsmouth, to their credit, responded in a positive manner and with penalties looming Mokoena rose unopposed to nod in Basinas's corner and earn an unlikely winner.

Coventry City (4-4-2): Westwood; Wright, Wood, McPake, Cranie; Bell, Gunnarsson, Clingan (Eastwood, ht), McIndoe; Best, Morrison. Substitutes not used: Konstantopoulos (gk), Hall, Hussey, Cain, Grandison, Jeffers.

Portsmouth (4-4-2): Begovic; Vanden Borre, Mokoena, Wilson, Hreidarsson; Diop, Mullins (Basinas, 77), Boateng (Utaka, 56), Brown,;Piquionne, Smith (Webber, 70). Substitutes not used: Ashdown (gk), Williamson, Sowah.

Referee: M Jones (Cheshire)

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