Portsmouth left it late to get themselves out of trouble against Sunderland, with an equaliser from Aruna Dindane in the fifth minute of added time at the end of the second half. Their supporters must hope the club's lawyers can achieve a similar result at the High Court this morning.
Broke, bottom of the table and teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, Portsmouth probably thought things could not get much more chaotic. They had not reckoned on referee Kevin Friend, who sent three players off (having initially dismissed the wrong Portsmouth player) and showed a red card to manager Avram Grant for an angry confrontation at the end of the first half. For a club so heavily in the red and facing possible liquidation, it was an appropriate colour for what could yet prove to be their last game.
Grant was certainly wound up last night. The normally docile manager stormed on to the pitch at the half-time whistle to protest furiously with the referee over two penalty claims he had rejected. "My team was fighting and I was fighting too," Grant said. "We should have had two clear penalties and I had had enough. In the last 10 days many decisions have gone against us. I think it is easy to give decisions against us at the moment."
Sunderland took the lead after 12 minutes in bizarre circumstances. Darren Bent raced into the penalty area with Ricardo Rocha in pursuit and when Bent tripped and fell, referee Friend pointed to spot. The official then mistakenly sent off Hassan Yebda. The Algeria international was livid and refused to leave the pitch, before Rocha confessed his guilt and Friend dismissed him instead. Bent stepped up to drive the penalty low past David James for his 16th goal of the season.
Portsmouth are well used to playing in adversity and they coped with the loss of Rocha admirably. That one-man difference was rubbed out in the 53rd minute, with two yellow cards in five minutes for Lee Cattermole.
The visitors pushed for a second and Bent missed a great chance to kill the game. Sunderland were then down to nine when substitute David Meyler was sent off for an elbow on Steve Finnan.
Steve Bruce's side were denied their first victory in 12 games when Dindane rose at the far post to head home Jamie O'Hara's cross. Bruce was downcast but had no argument with the red cards. "Both are young, honest boys but they have to learn from that because it has cost us," he said.
Portsmouth (4-3-1-2): James; Finnan (Webber, 89), Ben Haim, Wilson, Rocha; Basinas, Diop (Kanu, 75), Yebda (Belhadj, 78); O'Hara; Piquionne, Dindane. Substitutes not used: Ashdown (gk), Owusu-Abeyie, Mullins, Hughes.
Sunderland (4-1-3-2): Gordon; Hutton, Turner, Kilgallon, McCartney; Cana; Malbranque (Zenden 45), Cattermole, Reid (Meyler, 85); Jones, Bent (Bardsley, 89). Substitutes not used: Carson (gk), Liddle, Benjani, Da Silva.
Referee: K Friend (Leics).
Booked: Portsmouth Finnan, Dindane, Ben Haim; Sunderland Cattermole.
Sent off: Portsmouth Rocha (9); Sunderland Cattermole (53), Meyler (87).
Man of the match: O'Hara.
Attendance: 16,242.Reuse content