LuaLua loan deal backfires on Newcastle

Portsmouth 1 Newcastle United 1
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The Independent Football

It may sound crazy but it is true. A Newcastle player wearing a Portsmouth shirt scored the goal that denied the Magpies their first away win since October, here at Fratton Park yesterday afternoon. Thanks to the loan system approved at the beginning of this season, Premiership clubs can, for the first time, lend each other their players and, thanks to Lomana LuaLua, Portsmouth benefited.

The Congo international was loaned to Pompey upon his return from the African Nations Cup at the start of February. Still, some clubs refuse to let their loanees face them but Newcastle agreed to LuaLua's participation in this game, partly because Portsmouth have also paid a fee to the Magpies. His loan is for 93 days but in that time he may not score many more important goals, as the point earned here squeezed the home side out of the relegation zone. Newcastle, meanwhile, sit in fourth place but with only two points breathing space over Charlton.

With Portsmouth running out of time to equalise Craig Bellamy's first-half strike, LuaLua struck with a minute remaining. A short corner routine saw a cross headed out by Titus Bramble to LuaLua, who was lurking just inside the penalty area. His volley was instant and unerringly found the inside of Shay Given's far post.

A deeply frustrated Bobby Robson said: "It was unlucky that it fell to the wrong player. He was the last player we wanted to score against us," and the Newcastle manager added: "There were two players off-side in front of Shay. The shot went through two sets of legs and it cost us."

There was more than an echo, in this draw, of Portsmouth's FA Cup replay victory over Liverpool here last Sunday. Unable to create many chances in the second half they put their hopes in one good strike when the opportunity arose. For last week's hero Richard Hughes, read LuaLua on this occasion, who said: "For me to score that goal meant a lot. I'm here to impress but it was weird playing my old team-mates. I was a bit surprised I was allowed to play - it is not usual in these sort of deals nowadays."

Portsmouth had had a week to recover from their Cup exertions, but Newcastle had not only played Valerenga in the Uefa Cup in Norway on Thursday night but their return trip proved to be arduous. Hoping to fly from Oslo to Newcastle, they were diverted to Manchester. A bus ride eventually got them back to the north-east at 4am on Friday.

They must have been sick at the thought of another away fixture, especially one that is virtually the furthest away for them in the Premiership calendar. However, in a first-half that eventually rose to the boil, they created enough chances to suggest they were over their fatigue. Lee Bowyer, making his first start in over three months, had the first shy at goal. With six minutes gone, Alan Shearer, recalled after being rested on Thursday, flicked on and the midfielder sent his shot only a yard wide.

In a 10-minute spell when Pompey were in the ascendancy, Bowyer then escaped giving away a penalty when he looked to have fouled Alexei Smertin and the Russian and Eyal Berkovic missed presentable chances.

They were to regret that with 34 minutes gone. Kieron Dyer, also recalled, burst through from midfield into the penalty area. Selflessly, when a shot seemed easier, he cut the ball back for Bellamy who scored his fourth goal in four games from six yards out.

Robson played down talk of a rift between him and Shearer, who had been angry at being left out on Thursday. Restored to the fray he made little impact, unlike LuaLua.

Goals: Bellamy (34) 0-1; LuaLua (89) 1-1.

Portsmouth (4-3-1-2): Hislop 5; Pasanen 5, Primus 6, De Zeeuw 6, Taylor 5; Smertin 5, Faye 6 (Mornar, 72, 4), Quashie 4; Berkovic 4 (K Harper, 90); LuaLua 5, Yakubu 2. Substitutes not used: Wapenaar (gk), Curtis, R Hughes.

Newcastle (4-4-2): Given 5; Bernard 3, Bramble 5, O'Brien 5, A Hughes 5; Robert 5 (Viana, 78), Dyer 6 (Jenas, 40, 5), Speed 6, Bowyer 5 (Bridges, 81); Shearer 5, Bellamy 6. Substitutes not used: S Harper (gk), Woodgate.

Referee: A D'Urso (Essex) 7.

Bookings: Portsmouth: Faye, Berkovic; Newcastle: Bernard.

Man of the Match: Speed.

Attendance: 20,140.