Never mind the ethical misgivings, one of the practical flaws in the plan to ship the Premier League abroad is why the peopleof Los Angeles, Dubai or Sydney would want to watch a match between Bolton Wanderers and Portsmouth when only 18,544 bother in the country of origin. Certainly the home fans will wonder why they surrendered their cash yesterday.
A game of mounting frustration ended in a defeat for Bolton which did nothing to help them in their battle against relegation, and they will be wondering how they got so little out of a match they dominated.
Portsmouth managed only two shots on target all afternoon, and the second was Lassana Diarra's first Premier League goal. Even that was offside. "We battered them," Harry Redknapp, Pompey's manager, said with heavy irony. "I changed the way we played 14 times because we couldn't get any balance or possession. It was Bolton of old. They were a real handful."
Bolton created at least half-a- dozen chances that were principally thwarted by excellent goalkeeping. "We were beaten because of two words, David James," Gary Megson, the Wanderers manager, said. "That's the best we have played since I came here." Add a clearance off the line by Hermann Hreidarsson from Gary Cahill and a miss from Matt Taylor that is destined for a howlers DVD and you can appreciate why the home team had reason to feel hard done by.
The first half had you wondering what foreigners have done to deserve the plan to plant the Premier League in their stadiums, and would have dissolved in the memory entirely but for Taylor's extraordinary lapse after 31 minutes. The excellent Kevin Davies sped past Lucien Aubey and delivered a perfect pass that beat James's dive and the back-tracking defenders. In came Taylor but, faced with an open goal from five yards, he contrived to send the ball 20 feet over.
A miss like that almost guarantees the ball will be drawn to you like a magnet and Taylor, a former Portsmouth player, had two other opportunities within seven minutes of the restart. The first was a high volley that he fluffed so badly it went back to the player who had crossed it on the byline, Davies. The second was a side-foot into the side-netting from Gretar Steinsson's cross that left the Bolton midfielder holding his head in his hands, and it was almost an act of mercy when he was withdrawn with seven minutes to go.
By then Portsmouth had the decisive goal. Diarra turned beautifully, played a one-two with Kanu, and when his attempt was blocked the ball rebounded and was played forward by Kanu. Diarra was a yard beyond the final defender but the referee must have believed the final pass had been played by Bolton's Andy O'Brien. If Bolton felt aggrieved they had even more reason to feel hard done by in stoppage time when Cahill played the ball back and Tamir Cohen's shot failed to find the net only because of a flying save by James.
"They won't go down playing like that, that's for sure," Redknapp said. "They work so hard and there is a lot of skill there too." Kind words but scant consolation, as Megson intimated as he disappeared into the night. "I'd rather be a lucky manager," he said, "than a good one."