Pompey rely on pride as exes and injuries add to suffering
Tottenham Hotspur 2 Portsmouth 0
Sunday 28 March 2010
These teams face each other in the FA Cup semi-final a fortnight today, but those Portsmouth fans with tickets for Wembley might as well tear them up now. Never mind the goals by former players Peter Crouch and Niko Kranjcar that highlighted the gulf between these teams, Pompey might not even be able to put out a recognisable team. Hermann Hreidarsson, David James and Danny Webber were taken off injured and the visitors finished with 10 men. Avram Grant's luck deserted him the night that John Terry slipped when taking his penalty in the Champions' League final two years ago and shows absolutely no sign of returning.
"We've got no players left," came the chant from the visiting fans, which at least showed their sense of humour is intact, but Pompey, who already have a lengthy injury list, will almost certainly be without Hreid-arsson at Wembley as his left leg was immobilised and he was given oxygen. Harry Redknapp said his players heard the Iceland defender's Achilles tendon snap. James, who came off with a calf injury, should be fit but Webber, a substitute here, twisted knee ligaments and must also be a doubt for the semi-final.
Not that Tottenham needed the advantage handed them by Pompey's misfortune. Bottom of the Premier League, with nine points deducted for going into administration, Portsmouth are certain to be relegated. Grant, the manager, just has to try to ensure his players' spirits are not so deflated and the injury room not too full by the time of the semi-final.
Once Spurs had started the scoring the question for Pompey was whether it would be Wednesday night all over again, when they collapsed to a 5-0 home defeat against Chelsea. The culprit for the first goal that night was David James, this time it was Aaron Mokoena, although when you are marking Crouch there are mitigating circumstances unless you are also 6ft 7in. When Gareth Bale, putting in another vibrant performance, lobbed in a cross to the edge of the six-yard box, Mokoena failed even to make a challenge, leaving Crouch – once of Portsmouth – to head past James.
Yet the visitors started intent on causing an upset. Having won last week from a losing position against Hull, they could have scored first. Anthony Vanden Borre cut in from the right of midfield and he combined with Frédéric Piquionne. However, Heurelho Gomes was quick off his line to close down the Belgian's shot from 10 yards.
If they are, somehow, to cause a threat at Wembley, Pompey will have to hope their chances fall to strikers. Their second – and last – opportunity to score came three minutes before the interval. Michael Brown could not get any power on his shot as the ball fell slowly for him, giving Gomes time to close down the former Spurs midfielder.
A minute earlier the hosts had doubled their lead and were on their way to strengthening their grip on fourth place and the last Champions' League position that goes with it. Kyle Walker, brought in for the injured Vedran Corluka at right-back, showed he too can get forward. He pulled a cross back for Luka Modric, who mishit his shot, but it rebounded off Hayden Mullins to Niko Kranjcar – also once of Portsmouth – who tapped in.
Grant praised his players' spirit for limiting Spurs to just two goals and said: "The semi will be different, a big occasion, everyone wants to give their best. Tottenham played for something today, at Wembley everyone plays for the final, so it will be a different game."
Redknapp, the former Pompey manager, agreed with that while expressing his sympathy for Hreidarsson. Portsmouth need much more than kind words if they are to have a hope at Wembley.
Referee: Kevin Friend
Man of the match: Bale
Match rating: 6/10
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