Liverpool were the only winners at the Emirates yesterday, moving into third place in the table ahead of Arsenal and Portsmouth, who shared four goals in the space of a quarter of an hour on either side of half-time.
The home side were sent to the dressing room at the interval with jeers ringing in their ears and appeared to be on the verge of a first defeat at their new home when they went two goals down, but the introduction of Emman-uel Adebayor transformed the game. The mystery was why he did not start.
In need of a rest, said Arsène Wenger, who explained a second conundrum - his disappearance from the technical area throughout the dramatic second half - by admitting he had been dismissed by the referee for complaining as the teams left the pitch about the free-kick from which Portsmouth opened the scoring. "I think it was a foul on Gaël Clichy, not by him," said Wenger, who only last week was fined £10,000 for his altercation with Alan Pardew at West Ham. He was allowed into the dressing room at the interval and told his side to up the tempo and put some pressure on the visitors. They duly did so, but only after Matthew Taylor had doubled the lead with one of his spectacular dipping shots.
Improvement or not, Arsenal have drawn five of their nine home matches this season, dropping 10 points in what must be regarded as a vain pursuit of Chelsea and Manchester United. Although they have a highly winnable series of games before Thierry Henry's return in the new year, Wenger clearly cannot rely on Jérémie Aliadière for the necessary goals. Making a first start of the season in the Premiership, he was anonymous.
Adebayor added pace down the centre, just as Theo Walcott had done on both flanks after his early introduction as a replacement for the injured Freddie Ljungberg. But Arsenal's vulnerability at set-pieces undermined them again when shoddy defensive work allowed Noé Pamarot to score his second goal in England. Taylor's dependable left foot swung in the free-kick Wenger had so vigorously disputed, David Thompson, the smallest player on the pitch, was allowed a free header from eight yards that struck the post, and Pamarot reacted fastest.
Until that point David James was kept busy dealing with good efforts by Robin van Persie, twice, Walcott and Cesc Fabregas. Walcott was needed from the sixth minute when Ljungberg suffered a hamstring injury that will keep him out of the next half-a-dozen games in a schedule that Wenger claims is too busy. The youngster was lively, but Sol Campbell - warmly received on his return - had Aliadière in his pocket.
Any corporate supporters in the posh tier leaving early for the prawn sandwiches would have missed the first goal, and there were dozens of seats still empty when Portsmouth scored again in the 47th minute. Thompson's shot was deflected away to the edge of the penalty area, from where Taylor volleyed fiercely over Jens Lehmann's head for the latest contribution to his personal Goal of the Month competition.
Adebayor's arrival from the substitutes' bench to replace Aliadière seemed a matter of time and duly materialised after 55 minutes. His impact was extraordinary. Within seconds he might have had a penalty, Glen Johnson just managing a touch of the ball before the striker fell to earth; two goals followed in as many minutes.
First Alexander Hleb played a glorious pass inside Pamarot for Walcott to sprint on to and cross, Adebayor side-footing in. Then Kolo Touré hit a shot from 35 yards that James could only parry; Adebayor crossed, Walcott miskicked and Gilberto Silva did the captain's thing with the equaliser.
There were half-a-dozen opportunities for Arsenal to claim a winning goal, Van Persie coming closest after easily eluding Campbell but steering the shot wide. Portsmouth held on, however, for a point they would gladly have accepted before the start of a remarkable afternoon's football.
Harry Redknapp, who was keen as ever to emphasise how far he has brought them, said: "This time last year I went to Arsenal with probably the worst team I've ever had and we were four down by half-time. It could have been 10."
He also explained the bizarre circumstances of Manuel Fernandes' absence from Portsmouth's midfield. If the Portuguese loanee plays three successive matches, the club have to pay Benfica £12 million for him, so he is regularly dropped. It's a funny old game.Reuse content