Wolves wake up after a touch of wandering

Wolverhampton Wanderers 2 Portsmouth 2
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The Independent Football

Wolverhampton Wanderers did well to secure a draw and preserve their excellent opening-day record at Molineux yesterday after being rocked by two early goals by unfancied Portsmouth.

Not since 1990 have the West Midland side lost on the first day of a season, and they extended that run by another year by wiping out Portsmouth's early two-goal lead. The visitors looked like providing a fitting epitaph to the late Aaron Flahavan, their 25-year-old goalkeeper who died following a car crash last week, as they followed the minute's silence, which was immaculately observed by the crowd of over 23,000, with early strikes from Peter Crouch and Jason Crowe.

Flahavan's name was repeatedly chanted by Pompey's 3,000 fans while Crouch, signed during the summer from QPR and the scorer of five goals in six pre-season games, put Portsmouth in front in the eighth minute when he rose at the far post to head home a cross from the right by Nigel Quashie.

At that stage, Wolves' defence was a shambles and, after surviving a fierce, 20-yard effort from Quashie in the 13th minute and a twice-taken free-kick inside their area, they went further behind after 19 minutes when Crowe advanced on to a reverse pass by Lee Bradbury to clip a left-footed shot past the advancing Michael Oakes from 18 yards.

Wolves, whose teenage centre-half Joleon Lescott was preferred to the Frenchman Ludovic Pollet, had hardly threatened since a second-minute, 20-yard shot by Carl Robinson which flew just over the bar, but they gradually regrouped and began to look stronger as half-time approached.

Paul Butler, appointed captain in place of Kevin Muscat, produced a falling save from Pompey's debutant keeper Dave Beasant, who also did well in the 34th minute when he cut out Tony Dinning's dangerous cross.

But the 42-year-old veteran of Wimbledon's 1988 FA Cup final triumph had no chance in injury time when the deficit was halved.

Mark Kennedy, a £2 million signing from Manchester City, saw his 25-yard free-kick deflected against the post by a team-mate and Wolves' other debutant, Shaun Newton, nudged home the rebound, with the unfortunate Beasant committed to diving the other way.

Wolves enjoyed nearly all the second-half action and deservedly equalised after Newton, who joined the club last week from Charlton for £850,000, had superbly beaten two men and crossed for Cedric Roussel, who headed home his first competitive goal for the club.

Butler, Lee Naylor and Roussel all went close to netting a winner while Wolves were refused after appearing to have a strong case for a penalty when Adam Proudlock was brought down in the area by Scott Hiley.

But Pompey in turn almost snatched an undeserved victory on the break in the dying minutes when Bradbury sent a lunging header narrowly wide from a Jamie Vincent centre.

Wolverhampton Wanderers 2

Newton 45, Roussel 57

Portsmouth 2

Crouch 8, Crowe 20

Half-time 1-2 Attendance: 23,012

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