Charlton Athletic 0 Portsmouth 1: LuaLua grabs glory while Campbell marshalls defence

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Yet to taste defeat after five games, or even to concede a goal, Harry Redknapp sat on top of the Premiership on Saturday evening and enjoyed the view. Not even the prospect of another kind of Panorama, as created by the BBC, could wreck the moment as he treasured his and Portsmouth's rare experience at the top of the pile. Jubilant Pompey fans, covered in pinch-marks, even talked of winning the League.

A solitary second-half goal from Lomana LuaLua, who arrived as an "impact" substitute, decided the outcome and completed a fairy-tale start to the new season for Portsmouth. Last winter, when Panorama's undercover investigations began, Redknapp was trying to guide Portsmouth clear of relegation. He did that in famous fashion and after a summer of further reinforcements and reconstruction Portsmouth have been transformed into a team that plays pleasing, passing football.

Parts of their game may have looked limited against an injury-hit Charlton Athletic, but this team is a work in progress and appears likely to continue providing an element of surprise in the weeks to come. In the first half alone, they could have buried Charlton under a heap of goals before easing off and almost losing their way before LuaLua's timely strike with 16 minutes remaining.

The opening period was played at a frenetic pace. Charlton began with confidence and both Marcus Bent and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink had chances, but the Portsmouth defence, marshalled by Sol Campbell and expertly welded into a unit by Tony Adams, held firm. Inspired by this solidity, the visitors soon gained momentum, particularly in midfield, where the deep-lying Hasselbaink, playing behind two strikers, looked lost. Charlton's three were soon overrun by Pompey's four.

Glen Johnson, the Chelsea right-back who has undergone a rebirth on loan on the south coast, relished the space he was afforded. He charged down the wing and created several openings. From one, after half an hour, Kanu headed into the side-netting, when the goal was an easier target.

At this stage, Portsmouth dominated with aplomb and authority. Pedro Mendes impressed as a smooth operator in midfield and Kanu was a mixed bag of tricks, flicks and spins. Charlton, meanwhile, looked disjointed and out of sorts. Pompey's sheer panache was unravelling them almost at will.

Charlton's manager, Iain Dowie, missing several injured, key players, changed an ineffective 4-3-1-2 formation to 4-4-2 at the break. Amdy Faye moved from defence to shore up central midfield in a reshuffle that saw Marcus Bent withdrawn. The tide was stemmed, but not turned and Darren Bent continued to cut a lonely figure.

Then the alert LuaLua decided the game. Brought on to replace Benjani Mwaruwari, he injected the pace and energy that Portsmouth had lacked and, after 74 minutes, he scored the only goal. The midfielder Sean Davis sent him through and LuaLua teased defender Jonathan Fortune, who stood off him on the edge of the penalty area, before firing a low shot that eluded Scott Carson and found the bottom corner. Cue a forward somersault from the Democratic Republic of Congo striker. Pompey were top. And Harry started smiling.

Goal: LuaLua (74) 0-1.

Charlton Athletic (4-3-1-2) Carson; Kishishev (Lisbie, 79), Faye, El Karkouri, Young; Rommedahl, Pouso (Holland, 57), Ambrose; Hasselbaink; Darren Bent, Marcus Bent (Fortune, 46). Substitutes not used: Myhre (gk), Ashton.

Portsmouth (4-4-2) James; Stefanovic, Campbell, Primus, Johnson; O'Neil (Thompson, 89), Mendes, Davis, Taylor; Kanu, Mwaruwari (LuaLua, 63). Substitutes not used: Kiely, Paramot, Koroman.

Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).

Booked: Portsmouth O'Neil, Kanu.

Man of the match: Kanu.

Attendance: 26,130.