Pathetic Pompey score hat-trick at wrong end
Manchester United 5 Portsmouth 0
Sunday 07 February 2010
Whatever the theme tune to MASH might suggest, suicide is never painless and metaphorically Portsmouth are now locked in a room with a whisky, a revolver and a bundle of final demands.
To go to Old Trafford, a ground where they last won in the League in 1957, would have been a trigger for despair at Fratton Park, but to score three own goals was the actions of a side ready to embrace its fate.
On this evidence, it seems little wonder that Ali al-Faraj, who has just become the third man to relinquish ownership of the club this season, never actually watched them. The sound of drums and bells from the away end was proof that Portsmouth's supporters would not be going quietly from the Premier League but going they are. It is a long walk from Old Trafford to Portsmouth, especially when you have shot yourself so many times in the foot.
When asked to comment on Avram Grant's visit to a "massage parlour" his wife, Tzofit, said he needed a massage because of the stress of being "a great manager of a crappy team". Portsmouth are better than that but sometimes it does not feel like it.
So on the 52nd anniversary of the Munich disaster, Manchester United regained the summit of the Premier League, although this was more a stroll up Primrose Hill rather than an assault on the Eiger's north face. Perhaps significantly, although Chelsea have a game in hand this morning, their advantage in goal difference has now been entirely wiped out.
The fixture list, at Old Trafford at least, has been kind to Manchester United but they have seized their opportunity with a familiar ruthlessness.
Successive home games against Wolves, Wigan, Burnley, Hull and Portsmouth have been won by a collective scoreline of 20-0. Sir Alex Ferguson doubted he would be able to watch Chelsea against Arsenal this afternoon because he was travelling to Glasgow, although in spirit he will be in the away dugout at Stamford Bridge, alongside Arsène Wenger.
Had United not squandered a succession of chances, the margin of defeat might have been greater. Jonny Evans grazed the frame of the goal with a header. Dimitar Berbatov clipped his shot wide from the six-yard line. David James saved brilliantly from Antonio Valencia. There was some early resistance from Portsmouth as Anthony Vanden Borre forced a fine save from Edwin van der Sar and Evans cleared off the line from Nadir Belhadj. But once Wayne Rooney broke through, heading his 23rd of the season, that resistance evaporated.
Perhaps Berbatov's goal, a drive from the edge of the area, summed up the afternoon. When the ball struck the net, the Bulgarian turned and shrugged his shoulders. It was that sort of a game.
The own goals were all different. Nani's dance into the area produced a deflection from Vanden Borre that squirmed beneath James' body. Michael Carrick's drive struck Richard Hughes, looping over James to strike the bottom of his crossbar before nestling in the netting.
If there was some dispute as to whether Carrick should have been credited with it, there was none for the fifth – a cracking volley from Marc Wilson which would have been a beautiful move had it been at the Stretford End. "Football is a game of goals," Grant said, although he might have added that you are normally required to score them in your own net.
Referee: Lee Mason
Man of the match: Berbatov
Match rating: 7/10
Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
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