This seventh defeat in eight Premiership matches was not only Leeds' most comprehensive so far this season, it was also, surely, the last of Peter Reid's difficult eight-month tenure at the club. Even allowing for Leeds' well-documented financial problems and Mark Viduka's never-ending sulk, the manner of this loss - the first time Leeds had conceded six goals since 1995 - suggests that Reid's time must be up.
After the game, Reid admitted that the second half had been the "worst 45 minutes of my managerial career", but insisted that he would not resign. Might he get the sack? "That's not in my hands," he said, knowing the board will consider his position today.
The winning manager, Harry Redknapp, tried to offer support for his opposite number, saying: "I love Reidy and I'm not surprised he won't quit, because he's a fighter." Significantly, Redknapp also went on to admit that he was amazed by Leeds' fall from grace. "Two years ago, I thought they would be the team of the decade," he said. Not any more he doesn't. They still go by the name Leeds United, but no one is fooled. Bottom of the League and without their main goalscorer, Leeds are more disunited than at any time in their troubled recent past.
With just two Premiership wins since the beginning of the season, the last thing Reid needed before yesterday's trip to Fratton Park was yet another falling-out with his Australian striker Viduka. The feud between the two men took another turn for the worse on Friday, when Viduka stomped off the training field telling his team-mates that the club would go down while "this guy is in charge". Whatever the merits of his views, Viduka's continued outbursts cannot be helping the team's desperate cause. Reid would not comment about the situation, preferring instead to round on those who underperformed yesterday. "The players showed a complete lack of desire," he said, "and you wonder whether they deserve their pay packages."
With so much off-field drama, it was easy to forget there was a football match to play yesterday. In fact, the Portsmouth groundsmen very nearly did, as they had not properly checked the floodlights before kick-off and the game was delayed by half an hour. Not that the extra training time did Leeds any good.
In Viduka's absence, Reid was forced to move James Milner up into attack alongside Alan Smith, thus freeing up a space for Jody Morris in midfield. This was Morris's first appearance since he was released on bail pending an investigation into a sexual assault outside Leeds a couple of months ago. New formation, same old frailties. On 16 minutes, Patrik Berger floated in a corner at the near post, which Dejan Stefanovic rose highest to head home. It all seemed so easy.
Too easy, perhaps, because the home side committed the most cardinal of all football sins and switched off immediately after taking the lead. Seth Johnson, who has yet to live up to his £7m price tag, threaded a neat ball between two Portsmouth defenders into Smith's path. The England international took one touch, rounded Shaka Hislop, and then buried the ball with a deft left-foot chip.
It was all Portsmouth thereafter, as they launched attack after attack. Leeds looked to have hung on until the break until 20-year-old midfielder Gary O'Neil, making his first start of the season, restored Portsmouth's lead with a wonderful right-foot volley from 35 yards.
Some of the Leeds players must still have faith in Reid, because they emerged from the interval looking hungrier. Within minutes of the restart, Johnson made a good break down the left-hand side of the Portsmouth area before delivering an inch-perfect cross to the unmarked Jermaine Pennant at the far post, but the on-loan midfieldersaw his effort saved.
Leeds' enthusiasm quickly spilled over into rashness, though, and three of the visitors were booked in the first 15 minutes of the half. In truth, the spate of cards owed much to the home side's intelligent play, with Berger, in particular, pulling the strings magnificently from midfield. The longer the game wore on, the better Portsmouth played, and it came as no surprise when they finally made the three points safe on 63 minutes.
Sheringham, who was lurking on the edge of the Leeds area, cushioned a neat header towards Hayden Foxe just outside the D. What the Pompey centre-back was doing in such an advanced position is anyone's guess, but no one in Portsmouth will be complaining this morning as the Australian international took one touch on his chest before rifling in an unstoppable right-foot shot past the diving Paul Robinson. It was that sort of day for the hapless Leeds, whose fate soon worsened as O'Neil was released by Berger on 71 minutes to slot home from eight yards.
Inexplicably, Leeds decided that the best form of defence was attack, and they were promptly caught on the break, as Sheringham picked out Berger's run from deep and then watched as the former Liverpool player skipped past Robinson before side-footing the ball home. Five soon became six, as the game turned into little more than a practice session for the home side. This time, it was Aiyegbini Yakubu's turn to make a mockery of Leeds' supposed defence by toe-poking home from two yards.
Stefanovic 17, O'Neil 45, 71, Foxe 63, Berger 75, Ayegbini 86
Leeds United 1
Half-time: 2-1 Attendance: 20,112Reuse content