Liverpool 0 Portsmouth 0: Redknapp ensures Liverpool's troubles come home

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The Independent Football

No longer are Liverpool's troubles confined to their travels. A night on which victory would have taken Rafa Benitez's men third ended instead in disappointment with a dreary deadlock that always seemed to be the limit of Portsmouth's ambitions.

A fourth successive clean sheet and a leapfrogging of Everton was scant consolation for a side who had propped up their erratic season by winning their previous three home matches.

Liverpool are now unbeaten in 24 consecutive Premiership games at Anfield but all the satisfaction belonged to Pompey, who survived quite comfortably as only the second visiting team after Blackburn Rovers to leave the venue unscathed in 2006-07.

Benitez acknowledged the ordinariness of Liverpool's performance by admitting: "We tried to do the right things, without success. Some players were a little tired in the second half and we were nervous. Also, they [Portsmouth] were wasting time from the beginning."

Pompey's greatest concern was returning the commanding Sol Campbell to the fray during five minutes of stoppage time at the end. The defender was off the field for around three minutes, to his obvious anger, before being supplied with a replacement for a split boot. "It took a while to find him one and I could see Liverpool scoring while he was off," Harry Redknapp smiled.

"As for time-wasting, no. I wouldn't know what that was. We coped well and it's pleasing to come here anytime and get a point."

David James was untroubled both in Campbell's absence and in his presence. In 277 games for the Merseysiders and now 108 consecutively for Portsmouth, he will not have had many matches quieter than this. His only serious saves came early in the second half, both from Luis Garcia, with Pompey responding spiritedly to the three-nights' break they have had in Cheshire since Sunday's trip to Newcastle brought them a fourth successive away defeat.

It is they who returned to third place, although their manager insists Arsenal and Liverpool will still complete this season's final top four.

The pre-match guessing game as to who would join Steve Gerrard in the injury-hit centre of Liverpool's midfield ended when the role went to Jamie Carragher, who required only 65 seconds to play a one-two with Garcia and drive wide.

Portsmouth's recent problems in away games have been less surprising than those of their hosts, and Redknapp predictably adopted 4-5-2 to the exclusion of his leading scorer, Kanu.

Redknapp was happy Liverpool were restricted to attempts from distance - Gerrard curling a fierce free-kick a foot too high, lashing narrowly wide following Peter Crouch's knock-down and seeing Garcia head into the side-netting.

Soon after half-time, the otherwise unimpressive Jermaine Pennant sent Gerrard away for a cross Dirk Kuyt laid back for Garcia to at last twice stretch James. Benitez decided this was not going to be a night for Crouch to add to his nine goals, withdrawing him in favour of Robbie Fowler on the hour.

Predictably, the last word was almost Gerrard's. His last-gasp header flashed narrowly wide but Liverpool deserved no better.

Liverpool (4-4-2): Reina; Finnan, Hyypia, Agger, Riise; Pennant (Guthrie, 84), Gerrard, Carragher, Garcia (El Zhar, 72); Crouch (Fowler, 61), Kuyt. Substitutes not used: Dudek (gk), Paletta.

Portsmouth (4-5-1): James; Pamarot, Primus, Campbell, Taylor; Thompson, Hughes, O'Neil, Mendes (Fernandes, 69), Kranjcar (O'Brien, 90); Mwaruwari (Kanu, 82). Substitutes not used: Ashdown (gk), Koroman.

Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).

Bookings: Liverpool Pennant, Carragher; Portsmouth Thompson, Hughes; Pamarot.

Man of the match: Steven Gerrard.

Attendance: 42,467.