Sulaiman Al-Fahim's takeover of Portsmouth went through a couple of weeks ago, having taken the entire summer to complete. After five games, and five defeats for his team, the Dubai-born businessman must be thinking how quickly he can get his money back. Currently in New York, maybe he is already scanning the Championship and hoping Newcastle United stay there just for the chance of a couple of money- spinning fixtures in the second tier. After all, Portsmouth against Scunthorpe does not have such a pleasing ring to it. Nor does relegation.
This is Portsmouth's worst start in the top division in their history. Bolton arrived at Fratton Park in a similarly parlous situation, having lost four out of four and thus represented Pompey's best chance of breaking their duck. The same applied to Bolton and it was the Trotters – and in particular Gary Cahill in the 89th minute – who broke Pompey's hearts of gaining a first point of the season. It was the fifth time this season that Bolton have taken the lead and the first time they have held on to it.
The way the central defender scored the winning goal was faintly ludicrous, even if Paul Hart, the Portsmouth manager, questioned whether Matt Taylor was offside in the build-up. From Jlloyd Samuel's long throw, there were four headers, all by Bolton and the last two from Cahill, finally beating David James off his fingertip and dribbling inside the post. Hart said: "It's not been easy but I wouldn't like to sit here crying. In every performance we've been showing we could turn it around. We are competitive although we caused our own downfall. We spurned chances. We have to turn it around soon."
The hosts, despite having greater possession, were chasing the game from the 13th minute. Bolton had already warned Portsmouth, when Tamir Cohen headed straight at David James. Soon after, Gretar Steinsson, the Iceland midfielder, deftly guided a high ball to Cohen on the left side of the penalty area. The Israeli midfielder thrashed his shot high past the England goalkeeper.
Before the transfer window shut at the start of this month, Hart was able to bring in a few players including Kevin-Prince Boateng and Jamie O'Hara, both signed from Tottenham, the latter on loan. Tal Ben Haim also made his debut although none of them will remember the occasion with much fondness.
Bolton's weakness in the air is not something you would predict given the presence of Zat Knight, at 6ft 6in, and Cahill, who is not much shorter but Portsmouth were hurriedly crossing the ball into the area. Frédéric Piquionne should have scored after 21 minutes from Tommy Smith's cross.
A first equaliser came via the aerial route four minutes later. Younes Kaboul outjumped all around him to direct O'Hara's corner in at the far post. The pair almost teamed up for a second goal in near-identical fashion but Kaboul mistimed his effort.
Offer Bolton a point then and they would have taken it as the hosts were demonstrably superior but a moment of casual defending allowed Bolton into the lead again. Nadir Belhadj lost the ball to Fabrice Muamba, whose pass found Kevin Davies. Ben Haim, playing against one of his former teams, brought the striker down and Taylor – once of Portsmouth – converted the penalty with ease. Ex marked the spot.
Not that Portsmouth ever lost belief they could find an equaliser. Jussi Jaaskelainen could have conceded a penalty for a tackle on Smith but the Finn was beaten anyway after 63 minutes. O'Hara's shot came back off Knight to Boateng, who had hitherto been anonymous but then found himself the centre of attention, curling his shot low past Jaaskelainen. It was not to last, though, as first Kevin Davies should have scored before Cahill did.
Gary Megson, the Bolton manager, said: "It was imperative to get something here today. That was the worst we've played this season but scored three goals away from home. Time will tell if that was a relegation battle." It certainly looked like it.
Referee: Chris Foy
Man of the match: O'Hara
Match rating: 7/10Reuse content