Liverpool suffer miserable defeat at Portsmouth

Portsmouth 2 Liverpool 0

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez suffered a disastrous trip to Portsmouth after Javier Mascherano was dismissed during a miserable defeat at Fratton Park.

Pompey's victory, with the goals coming from Nadir Belhadj and Frederic Piquionne, will ignite hope of survival in the Barclays Premier League.

However, Liverpool chances of finishing in the top four are uncertain - they missed a chance to record back-to-back league wins for the first time since September.

It means Avram Grant maintains his unbeaten record against Benitez after recording two wins and two draws during his time at Chelsea in the 2008 season.

Back then he ended the Spaniard's Champions League hopes at the semi-final stage - this time he has dented their chances of even qualifying for the competition.

Benitez was furious with Lee Mason, who sent two Liverpool players off during the defeat to Fulham earlier in the season, for his straight red for Mascherano, who will now miss four games through suspension.

The defeat also meant there was no celebration to mark Jamie Carragher's 600th appearance for Liverpool - until Belhadj's strike he would not have enjoyed an easier 30 minutes in his previous 599.

In truth, both sides needed time to find their a footing in a game played under tricky conditions. The match was able to go ahead due to the pitch being covered during the week, although there were traces of snow on the shaded areas of the turf meaning passing was sometimes hindered.

Benitez was boosted by the return of Fernando Torres after the Spain striker rested his troublesome groin in the midweek win over Wigan - but he was limited to half-chances.

Torres had a sight of goal early on but Hermann Hreidarsson was back in time - his sliced clearance could have gone anywhere but ended up in Asmir Begovic's hands.

Torres then got closer midway through the half after collecting a pass from Andrea Dossena and curling just over the bar, then he was inches from Steven Gerrard's cross.

Dossena's selection was a curious decision, especially with Yossi Benayoun relegated to the bench and Ryan Babel back after an ankle complaint.

And any plans Benitez had of his changes ensuring a simple victory were blown away just after the half-hour mark when Pompey took the lead.

Belhadj started the move himself by nutmegging Emiliano Insua to set up the attack. When the ball was cleared, Kevin-Prince Boateng forced Pepe Reina into a save with a powerful volley, former Pompey full-back Glen Johnson cleared the ball only as far as Belhadj and the Algerian lashed in at the near post.

Belhadj has been out of favour under Grant, this was his first game since October and resulted in his first goal of the campaign.

Daniel Agger should have levelled before the break. Gerrard's free-kick found him unmarked but the centre-back headed over from close range.

To make matters worse, then came Mascherano's dismissal.

The Argentina midfielder recklessly crashed into Tal Ben Haim, although his feet did not leave the ground. Nevertheless, Mason consulted the fourth official before giving a straight red card.

It was a decision that infuriated Benitez, who had chants of "you're getting sacked in the morning" aimed at him from home fans.

Benitez made his move eight minutes after the break, introducing Benayoun for Dossena to the delight of Liverpool fans, many of whom had set off at unsociable hours for the lunchtime kick-off.

Michael Brown made himself busy in midfield, winding up his opponents. When Torres snapped and fouled the Pompey skipper it earned the striker a yellow card, then the striker may have been fortunate to stay on the pitch when he led with his arm in a challenge on Ben Haim.

Johnson also earned a booking for tripping Jamie O'Hara when the on-loan Tottenham midfielder robbed him deep in Liverpool territory.

Begovic needed to be at his sharpest to deny Gerrard after the England midfielder's shot struck Brown and Hreidarsson. The Pompey goalkeeper was falling the wrong way but managed to palm the ball away.

Piquionne doubled the lead with eight minutes remaining, latching onto Boateng's cross, spinning around Carragher and finishing crisply.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project