LuaLua steals in to ease Mandaric's misgivings

Portsmouth 3 - West Bromwich Albion 2
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There isn't just one Harry for Portsmouth. Redknapp may have gone but, for the second successive Saturday, Arjan de Zeeuw - popularly known as 'Arry by his team-mates - stepped forward to claim the status of hero. Last week he admirably did not react to El-Hadji Diouf's spitting and scored the winning goal at Bolton Wanderers. Yesterday a captain's goal dragged his team back into this contest just as it looked like they had gifted it to West Bromwich Albion.

There isn't just one Harry for Portsmouth. Redknapp may have gone but, for the second successive Saturday, Arjan de Zeeuw - popularly known as 'Arry by his team-mates - stepped forward to claim the status of hero. Last week he admirably did not react to El-Hadji Diouf's spitting and scored the winning goal at Bolton Wanderers. Yesterday a captain's goal dragged his team back into this contest just as it looked like they had gifted it to West Bromwich Albion.

This was a result of huge, chaotic significance. Nothing has made sense at Fratton Park in recent weeks and that was not about to change. Two own goals in the first half plus another that will surely go down as one of the most comic ever to be conceded in the Premiership set the tone.

Added to that were the chants of "You don't know what you're doing" as executive director - and Redknapp's temporary stand-in - Velimir Zajec made his substitutions with Portsmouth chasing the game. On came Lomano LuaLua and Eyal Berkovic. The latter provided the precise free-kick, with five minutes to go, that De Zeeuw powered in with his head and the former scored the winning goal with just 60 seconds left. Oh, and LuaLua, who crashed the ball in from 12 yards, had been picked out by Berkovic to boot.

Inspired? Maybe so. To add further drama LuaLua had limped around prior to the goal only to embark on the most outrageous, prodigious celebration when he scored for the first time this season. In doing so he may have done himself another mischief even if he made Robert Earnshaw's first-half somersault look as tame as a child's tentative forward roll.

West Brom's manager, Bryan Robson, looked crestfallen afterwards. "I have said to the players that they will never have a better opportunity to get an away win this season," he said. And he was right. What made it all the more painful was his side's inability to control the game once ahead, to pass the ball, to show any discipline. What they missed was a leader in midfield, what they missed was a Bryan Robson. Instead of dragging themselves to the head of the bottom three they are rooted in last place.

Portsmouth took to the field nursing their own wounds and not just because of Redknapp's departure. The crashing disappointment of the League Cup defeat at Watford was all too raw and although, much to his relief, chairman Milan Mandaric heard his name chanted in praise rather than pain, Portsmouth fell behind when Dejan Stefanovic turned a low cross from Zoltan Gera into his own net.

To compound Portsmouth's anguish, it had followed the breakdown of an over-elaborate passing move in their own half and the refusal of a clear penalty when Matthew Taylor was held back by Riccardo Scimeca.

David Unsworth withdrew injured after his fierce drive clipped the crossbar and this led to a defensive reshuffle. Stefanovic was pushed to left-back and he charged forward to deliver a curling near-post cross. Incredibly Darren Purse, attempting to clear, simply poked the ball past goalkeeper Russell Hoult.

On half-time, Amdy Faye, in his own area, headed the ball into the air and when it came down panic ensued. For some reason Taylor tried a back-heel, goalkeeper Jamie Ashdown rushed from goal and Scimeca coolly turned the ball back for Earnshaw to tap in.

"A crazy goal, especially at this level," said Portsmouth's coach, Joe Jordan. But not as crazy as the game's dénouement. "I was saying to the foreign lads, that is English football," Jordan added. The dressing room was bouncing, he said. For West Brom there was no boinging.

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