Another turnaround for the record books

Tottenham Hotspur 4 Portsmouth 3
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The Independent Football

One school of therapy dictates that the best way to deal with a trauma is to confront it. Tottenham had little choice but to return to the scene of their harrowing FA Cup defeat to Manchester City - but did they really have to repeat the scoreline as well? This time it was tipped in their favour. But only just.

Portsmouth will have felt almost as scarred as their opponents did in midweek after a committed, passionate performance which, probably, should have earned their first away victory in the Premiership this season. "We just can't get a break," said their manager, Harry Redknapp. Having scored just three goals on their travels until now, they matched that meagre total inside 90 minutes. Spurs, by comparison, quivered throughout, aching with hurt pride and vulnerability. They simply appeared in shock. It was that raw.

As was their acting manager, David Pleat. His post-match press conference was simply extraordinary. It lasted maybe 40 seconds and went thus: "I'm delighted to win after such a traumatic week. Fortune broke for us today but maybe we deserved it. Football is full of ironies... but if you want to believe that it's only about winning and losing then I'm through."

As a parting shot, before "catching a plane", he added: "We deserved it [the win] because we have taken a lot of adverse, unfair, prejudicial..." His sentence was probably meant to end with "criticism". Except it didn't. End, that is.

His team were similarly disjointed. Their defence... well, there was none. A debut goal, brilliantly executed, by Jermain Defoe was a dim memory by the final whistle, as was a similarly excellent strike by Robbie Keane. Instead it was a scuffed winning goal, off the knee of substitute Gus Poyet, which settled it in the 89th minute. To add to the process of recovery, the ball even flew into the same net that City had struck four times in the second half on Wednesday evening.

An early flurry of pressure from Spurs proved a false dawn. It was Portsmouth who dominated, with Nigel Quashie, in his first start since November, driving them on. Further forward and Yakubu Ayegbini was simply too powerful for either Anthony Gardner or Dean Richards, whose confidence is shot, and when the Nigerian striker was joined in the second half by new signing Ivica Mornar, Spurs were simply battered. They defended too deep, they defended too poorly and they had much to thank goalkeeper Kasey Keller for. The imposing, quick Mornar replaced Teddy Sheringham - who tweaked a hamstring on his return to White Hart Lane.

Sheringham made 277 appearances for Spurs; this was Defoe's first since his £7m move from West Ham. He marked it by peeling away as Keane broke into the Portsmouth half, and giving the Irishman the option of a pass. Keane did. From the edge of the area, Defoe waited and, with minimum backlift, shot powerfully, right-footed, through Arjan de Zeeuw's legs, across Shaka Hislop and into the net.

It was a pedigree goal. Redknapp would undoubtedly agree. It was he, after all, who took Defoe to Upton Park as a 16-year-old.

Yet Spurs didn't capitalise. If anything they retreated, although Simon Davies could have steadied them after finding himself with only Hislop to beat. But the goalkeeper did well, rushing quickly from goal to block. Portsmouth then equalised, and although it was in fortuitous circumstances it was not undeserved. Eyal Berkovic released the ever-eager Yakubu, and as Stephen Carr tried to hack away the resultant cross, the ball struck Berkovic, who had continued his run, in the face and flew in.

To their credit, Spurs immediately responded. Carr squared to Keane and as Defoe cleverly took away defenders with a diversionary run, space opened up on the lip of the area. As De Zeeuw backed off, Keane allowed the ball to roll across his body, swivelled and smashed it left-footed and beyond Hislop. Some riposte.

The second half came, but it appeared Portsmouth's. Mornar created three opportunities for Berkovic but it was another substitute, Lomana LuaLua, on loan from Newcastle United, who intervened. As Richards again dallied, the Congolese striker stole in and curled the ball brilliantly. It struck the far post and went in. Up until then Defoe and Keane had become increasingly isolated. The ball evaded them. Finally Keane received a pass to his feet and, twisting, he beat two challenges before poking his shot off Hislop and into the net.

If his first goal showed great technique, his second was all about determination. That quality was soon on display at the other end. Again it was Yakubu sprinting away, and his low centre was bundled in by Mornar. It was starting to become as delirious as it was against Manchester City and, with seconds remaining, Spurs won a corner. It was headed back by Rohan Ricketts for Poyet to score. Redknapp bemoaned his luck. Pleat, if he'd had time, was probably counting his.

Tottenham Hotspur 4 Portsmouth 3
Defoe 13, Keane 42, 79, Poyet 89; Berkovic 39, LuaLua 73, Mornar 84

Half-time: 2-1 Attendance: 36,107

How the match was won

13th min: Tottenham 1 Portsmouth 0 Jermain Defoe, on the right of the box, drills home a right-foot drive on debut.

39th min: Tottenham 1 Portsmouth 1 Steven Carr hacks away a cross and the ball goes in off Eyal Berkovic's head. Sublime finish, now ridiculous defending.

42nd min: Tottenham 2 Portsmouth 1 Back to goal and on the edge of the area, Robbie Keane swivels and volleys home.

73rd min: Tottenham 2 Portsmouth 2 Lomana LuaLua wins possession and deftly curls the ball around Kasey Keller.

79th min: Tottenham 3 Portsmouth 2 Keane slips past two defenders and squeezes the ball beyond Shaka Hislop.

84th min: Tottenham 3 Portsmouth 3 LuaLua crosses from the left and Ivica Mornar bundles the ball over the line.

89th min: Tottenham 4 Portsmouth 3 Simon Davies's corner is headed back across goal and the ball bounces in off Gustavo Poyet's knee. Game, set, snatch.