Osman's strike proves just reward for Everton graft

Everton 2 - Portsmouth 1
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The Independent Online

David Moyes, the Everton manager, will be hoping the arrival of James Beattie reinvigorates his jaded team even if Leon Osman's injury-time winner was enough to beat Portsmouth at last night.

David Moyes, the Everton manager, will be hoping the arrival of James Beattie reinvigorates his jaded team even if Leon Osman's injury-time winner was enough to beat Portsmouth at last night.

Despite the best efforts of Thomas Gravesen, they were unable to apply the finishing touch to a host of serviceable chances until the 23-year-old Osman seized on a loose ball to smash home a late winner.

Portsmouth, who were always a threat on the break, had looked like escaping with a point after Aiyegbeni Yakubu equalised within two first-half minutes of Alan Stubbs heading Everton into the lead.

It was hard to escape the feeling that the 26-year-old England forward might have converted one to earn all three points for his new club.

Beattie completed the formalities of his £6m transfer yesterday to become Everton's record signing and was paraded on the pitch before kick-off. For the sake of the Portsmouth fans, it was probably just as well he did not sign in time to be available for this game. The ex- Southampton striker has been sold by their former manager, Harry Redknapp, so the sight of him scoring the winner might have been too much to bear.

In Beattie's absence, Kevin Campbell had a first start since August with leading scorer Marcus Bent rested at the end of the busy Christmas programme.

For a 34-year-old like Campbell, playing alone up front can be a thankless task and Everton's midfield failed to offer him the support he needed at first.

It took them 20 minutes to fashion a decent chance, when for once he was fed the ball into his feet. The striker's clever pass allowed James McFadden a sight of goal, with Arjan de Zeeuw covering well to block.

That it should take a dead ball to open the scoring was of no surprise, but Portsmouth's equaliser arriving two minutes later was much less predictable.

First, Gravesen's left-wing corner gave Stubbs the chance to head his first of the season. Then, with Everton's celebrations barely over, Yakubu seized on Patrik Berger's through-ball to finish emphatically from an acute angle.

Berger almost gave Pompey the lead just before half-time when his dipping volley - one of several long-range efforts from the Czech - landed on the roof of the net. Diomansy Kamara went even closer with a drive that had Richard Wright beaten but went just wide of his near post.

Everton hit back with Osman turning beyond Linvoy Primus and crossing for Tim Cahill, who headed into the ground and over the bar from six yards as the game belatedly came to life. With Gravesen prominent, Everton, inch by inch, established their supremacy. It took Osman's late intervention to make it count.

Everton (4-5-1): Wright; Hibbert, Yobo, Stubbs, Naysmith; Osman, Gravesen, Carsley, Cahill, McFadden (Kilbane, 73); Campbell (Bent, 73). Substitutes not used: Turner (gk), Pistone, Weir.

Portsmouth (4-4-1-1): Hislop; Stone, Primus, De Zeeuw, Stefanovic; O'Neil, Quashie, Faye (Cissé, 73), Berger; Kamara; Yakubu (Taylor, 85). Substitutes not used: Ashdown (gk), Unsworth, Mezague.

Referee: P Walton (Northamptonshire).

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