Portsmouth back in FA Cup final after 69 years
Saturday 05 April 2008
Portsmouth reached the FA Cup final for the first time in 69 years on Saturday when a 54th minute goal from Nwankwo Kanu gave them a 1-0 semi-final win over West Bromwich Albion at Wembley Stadium.
The Premier League team's slender victory over their Championship (second division) opponents ended the chance of this year's final being the first to be contested by two teams from outside the top flight since league football started in England in 1888-89.
Portsmouth will now play either Cardiff City or Barnsley, who meet in an all-Championship semi-final on Sunday, in the final at Wembley on May 17.
West Brom, who were the better team for much of the first half, went close to an equaliser when Robert Koren hit the bar after 75 minutes, but Portsmouth held on to reach the final for the first since they won the cup for the only time in 1939.
With so much at stake for both clubs who were chasing a rare appearance in the showpiece of the English game, the match was a typically tense semi-final that only really came to life in the second half.
Portsmouth, who had largely been outplayed in the opening 45 minutes, broke the deadlock against the run of play when West Brom failed to deal with a long, speculative ball played deep into their box by Glen Johnson. Milan Baros collected the ball between his chest and upper arm then turned and fired in a low shot which goalkeeper Dean Kiely failed to hold.
As the ball ran across the face of the goal Zoltan Gera attempted to clear the ball to safety but could only find Kanu who made no mistake from three metres out to score against his former club.
Baros then had a great chance to wrap up the match for Pompey after 66 minutes but squandered his effort and was substituted five minutes later.
West Brom went forward in search of an equaliser and almost drew level when Koren's well-struck 20-metre shot flew back off the bar with 15 minutes to play.
Neither side posed any real attacking threat in a poor first half, although West Brom, seeking a place in the final for the first time since they won the FA Cup in 1968, looked the livelier of the two sides.
With Kevin Phillips dropping deep into midfield and both James Morrison and Gera looking to get forward when they could down the flanks, West Brom at least appeared to be looking to score wheras Portsmouth were content to absorb pressure.
Gera had the only dangerous shot on target in the opening half too, and caused some momentary panic in the Portsmouth defence when David James fumbled his well struck sixth minute shot before recovering to save it.
Portsmouth's one direct attempt of the opening half came after 30 minutes when Sulley Muntari sent a 30-metre free kick directly into Kiely's arms.
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