Blackburn come up trumps as D'Urso lets the cards fly

Portsmouth 0 - Blackburn Rovers 1
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Once more a nightmare on the south coast for referee Andy D'Urso. The last time he officiated in these parts it was along the M27 at Southampton, where his failure to send off Blackburn's Barry Ferguson earned him a 28-day suspension. Blackburn were again the beneficiaries yesterday, although they also earned this valuable away victory - but no one could accuse D'Urso of not brandishing his cards. Eight bookings and the dismissal of two Portsmouth players killed an already tetchy game.

Once more a nightmare on the south coast for referee Andy D'Urso. The last time he officiated in these parts it was along the M27 at Southampton, where his failure to send off Blackburn's Barry Ferguson earned him a 28-day suspension. Blackburn were again the beneficiaries yesterday, although they also earned this valuable away victory - but no one could accuse D'Urso of not brandishing his cards. Eight bookings and the dismissal of two Portsmouth players killed an already tetchy game.

It left the home side, with their distractions over who is leaving, in danger of imploding. The biggest departure may well be Ayegbini Yakubu - he was a preoccupied participant rather than a £10m striker. Also out of sorts was Patrik Berger. Two offers have been received for him while Nigel Quashie was excluded and will join Southampton for £2.2m tomorrow.

Portsmouth are struggling in the post-Harry Redknapp era. It is one win in eight and, further, the tinkering of manager Velimir Zajec has left them vulnerable. Here he played with two wing-backs and three strikers. Go figure that.

One of those was Lomana LuaLua, available after missing five games through an ear infection - but now absent again after lasting just 50 minutes before receiving a red card for butting Andy Todd. Blackburn's combustible captain was himself guilty of raising his hand - "there was a punch that was not picked up," alleged Portsmouth coach Joe Jordan who, however, did not dispute the dismissal and said that LuaLua had later apologised. The incident, picked up by the assistant referee, followed a mêlée after a heavy tackle by Amdy Faye. That earned the midfielder a yellow card but he also departed, in the sixth minute of chaotic added time, after gaining a second for charging into Blackburn goalkeeper Brad Friedel.

"I thought he was poor," Jordan said of D'Urso. "I can say that, can't I?" Indeed he can. "There were a couple of cynical challenges but it wasn't a dirty game." To add to Portsmouth's anger those challenges came from Blackburn's recent signings, the South African Aaron Mokoena and New Zealander Ryan Nelsen, thrust into the fray through injuries. First Nelsen tugged back Yakubu, after he had beaten him for pace, while Mokoena tripped Diomansy Kamara as three Portsmouth players faced just one visiting defender. Blackburn's manager Mark Hughes, delighted with the performance, said there was always a danger of a dismissal with so many cards shown so early.

For Blackburn, in the absence of Ferguson, injured but also homesick, David Thompson passed intelligently. It was he who released Morten Gamst Pedersen into the area, immediately after LuaLua's dismissal, and with Ports-mouth in disarray. The Norwegian calmly lifted the ball beyond the recalled Shaka Hislop to score.

That followed an indifferent first-half in which LuaLua had volleyed over from six yards and Paul Gallagher had failed to connect with another astute Thompson pass. After the goal Portsmouth were fired with a sense of injustice, even if the best opportunities fell to their opponents. Brett Emerton slammed a shot into a defender's head, when he should have scored, and substitute Matt Jansen was dispossessed as he bore down on goal.

At the other end Yakubu, Kamara and replacement Ricardo Fuller were wayward. Just like D'Urso.

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