Swansea City removed the FA Cup holders from this season's competition with an efficiency that Tony Adams envied and admired at Fratton Park yesterday, the visitors handing his Portsmouth side a lesson in sharp, well-organised football, with pace in attack and some crisp finishing.
Though Pompey reorganised at the interval, when they trailed by two goals, and dominated much of the second half, the Welsh club fully deserved to take their place in the fifth round for only the second time in 29 years.
On an afternoon of heroic performances in white shirts, two stood out: that of a Greek goalkeeper, Dimitrios Konstantopoulos, on loan from Cov-entry City and called in to make his FA Cup debut for Swansea; and that of an on-loan Southampton winger, Nathan Dyer, reviled by the locals, who scored the visitors' opening goal and gave the Portsmouth rearguard a torrid test of pace and technique. But the true hero of Swansea's triumph was their manager, RobertoMartinez, whose astute plan for this game left Adams twitching and chasing shadows on the touchline.
"I am so proud of my players," said the Spanish coach. "It was difficult for them to adapt to this stadium, this level of Premiership opposition, but we have played like this for several weeks now in the Championship and I am not surprised by the result.
"We did well. We are 12 games unbeaten now and the players want to keep improving. For me, it was not a ten-out-of-ten performance – there is still quite a lot of room for improvement and my players know that."
Modesty forbade him from crowing at his own part in Portsmouth's downfall, but it was clear to most neutrals that his team's formation and the pace and movement of his front-runners had enabled them to take the initiative and keep it with an ease that was more unexpected than the result.
Though "Dimi" made several good saves in the second half, notably one from Sean Davis, Swansea never looked to be in any serious danger of conceding a goal in their manager's first confrontation with a League club in this competition since he arrived in Britain.
Indeed, even with Jermaine Pennant, making his Portsmouth debut on loan from Liverpool and working as hard as he could to make an initial impression, it was difficult to see how Pompey might score. The Greek keeper was in such sublime form that he made his diving save for Davis's shot and a swoop to save from Peter Crouch appear routine in the spells when Pompey enjoyed most possession and threatened.
"In the first half we were outfought, outpassed and outplayed," said Adams, who made two half-time changes to refresh his side. "Yes, their keeper played well and I didn't think we deserved to go 2-0 down, but we changed it around for the second half.
"We had seven [shots on goal] and we hit the post... But I don't want to sit here and make excuses. I warned the players of what to expect, but they were still caught on the hop. Swansea are a very good team."
A three-times winner himself as a player, he said it was always painful to go out of the FA Cup. "You get highs and lows," he said. "If you win it, it is fantastic, but if you lost in the third or fourth round, or in the semi-finals, it is horrible.
"Now we have to put it to bed and go out and get three points on Tuesday night [at home to Aston Villa]. We are in a relegation scrap, as I have said all season. We are not Arsenal or Manchester United."
Swansea, promoted as champions of League One last season, were in command from start to finish. Dyer and midfielder Jordi Gomez both forced saves from David James before they went ahead after 26 minutes when Dyer, receiving Jason Scotland's loftedpass, accelerated into the heart of Pompey's leaden rearguard and fired a diagonal 20-yard shot beyond James. It was his first goal this season.
Three minutes later, from a cross by Armand Traoré, Crouch wasted a perfect opportunity to level when he directed his volley within reach of the keeper, who turned it away. It was a costly miss. Five minutes later, in first-half added time, Traoré brought down Gomez on the edge of the penalty area.
If there was doubt about the decision there was none about its execution, Scotland sweeping his 13th goal of the season past the England keeper with elan from the spot-kick. It was a cue for the Welsh choirs to break into song, and they were still filling the air as they travelled home in triumph.
"This win, to beat the holders, is one for the fans," said Martinez. "And a compliment to the club."
Referee: Andre Marriner
Man of the match: Dyer
Match rating: 8/10Reuse content