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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy