De Zeeuw gets Pompey show back on road

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The Independent Football

Bolton Wanderers 0 Portsmouth 1

As Mark Twain would have put it, reports of Portsmouth's death may have been exaggerated. Pompey arrived at Bolton Wanderers bereft of a manager and supposedly ripped apart by internal strife after the resignation of Harry Redknapp and Jim Smith last week. The result? Their first away win of the season.

Bolton Wanderers 0 Portsmouth 1

As Mark Twain would have put it, reports of Portsmouth's death may have been exaggerated. Pompey arrived at Bolton Wanderers bereft of a manager and supposedly ripped apart by internal strife after the resignation of Harry Redknapp and Jim Smith last week. The result? Their first away win of the season.

The much lauded Redknapp-Smith combination had managed just two points away from Fratton Park in the Premiership but rather than capitulate in their absence, Pompey played like they were the happiest club in the country at the Reebok Stadium.

No one was beaming brighter than their controversial new director of football, Velimir Zajec. It was the appointment of the Croat against Redknapp's wishes that reportedly led to the resignation of the manager and his assistant this week. But if results speak for themselves, yesterday's testimonial for Zajec was deafening. And the noise will have carried all the way to Dubai and the club's chairman Milan Mandaric, who has suffered an avalanche of criticism this week.

Mandaric had been berated for precipitating the departure of Redknapp and Smith by appointing Zajec, but the criticism looked less solid after this win secured by Arjan de Zeeuw's winner just before half-time. That secured Portsmouth's first success at Bolton since they won 5-0 on 20 September, 1952, and given the events at Fratton Park last week, you half-expected the prolific boot to be on the other foot yesterday. Yet there was little sign of Portsmouth disarray and even the supporters were not the anticipated rabid mob demanding Redknapp's reappointment.

The visiting supporters dealt with their antipathy to Southampton first, and it was a full 17 minutes before "One Harry Redknapp" was ringing round the ground. At the finish they were doing congas. "The players were fantastic today," the Portsmouth coach Kevin Bond said, while confirming that the team and the tactics had been chosen by Zajec. "They were a bit down over the last couple of days, as you would expect, but they showed great character. They were a credit to Harry, Jim, the football club and themselves."

Bolton began the brighter but the initial promise manifested itself into a couple of long-range efforts from Jay-Jay Okocha and a low shot from El-Hadji Diouf after a lovely pass from Okocha had split the Portsmouth back four. That was saved by Jamie Ashdown and was described as the game's turning point by the Bolton manager Sam Allardyce. "We were Boltoned," he said. "They did exactly what we've been doing for three years, an organised defensive unit, playing on the break."

The break came just before half-time when Matt Taylor was brought down by Nicky Hunt. Gary O'Neil's free-kick, from wide on the left 30 yards out, was the sort defences are expected to clear in their sleep but on this occasion De Zeeuw was first to the near post, heading powerfully past Jussi Jaaskelainen.

Bolton's Kevin Davies had an attempt blocked after 48 minutes, Radhi Jaidi should have done better than his scuffed shot a minute later. Gary Speed's powerful header went straight at Ashdown.

Pompey finished the better and almost secured a goal-of-the-month contender after 54 minutes. Patrick Berger picked up the ball in the centre circle, beat Bruno N'Gotty with a delightful swerve and then left Hunt and Ricardo Gardner in a crumpled heap as he cut inside. Unfortunately, however, his shot did not match the elegance of his run.

Bolton claimed a penalty when Diouf was brought down by Andy Griffin after 70 minutes, and a flare-up followed between several players. Afterwards there were allegations that Diouf spat in the face of De Zeeuw.

"It's a bitterly disappointing defeat," concluded Allardyce.

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