Portsmouth 0 Everton 0: Lescott stops Portsmouth in their tracks as Everton retreat

After last week's goal glut, Moyes shows his side know how to defend as well
Click to follow
The Independent Football

Goalless draws are not supposed to make anybody happy but Everton's manager, David Moyes, was certainly content with the point his team took back home from this chilly, windblown encounter. A week ago, his attack had taken Sunderland for a seven-goal ride and yesterday it was his defence which collected the honours as they held prolific Portsmouth, mostly with a degree of comfort.

What all managers dream of, then, is a good all-round side. And perhaps it was a result to be expected from a team who have now lost just one of their last eight visits to Fratton Park.

Portsmouth tend to be prolific on their travels. This was their third consecutive goalless draw at home, where they are unbeaten but clearly not all-conquering. They have now gone 10 games unbeaten, a club record in the Premier League, while Everton stretched their own run without defeat to eight. So perhaps stalemate was predictable.

Perhaps it was also because the teams showed each other mutual respect, or more likely suspicion, but there was never much to enthuse a sell-out crowd once the home fans had let rip with a pre-kick-off chorus of "There's only one Harry Redknapp", underlining a fact of which the rest of the football world is well aware.

Afterwards Redknapp, who insisted on "football only" questions following time spent in midweek helping the police with inquiries, was duly grateful. "They have been a great crowd to me since I have been here," adding "but I have been not too bad for them either."

He sees Pompey's inability to break free as the consequence of what he called "a tight ground". It is, he claimed, "difficult to find space at times at home. We just needed a break in front of goal, but Everton are a difficult team to beat, a good outfit. I won't lose any sleep tonight about not beating a team like that."

Certainly, the Unique One was unable to inspire his team to anything uplifting. Even Niko Kranjcar, the scourge of England, could not open up an Everton defence excellently marshalled by Joleon Lescott. But Redknapp was anxious to accentuate the positive. "Ten games unbeaten shows how far we have come as a club. Two years ago we couldn't win for 10."

Most of the first-half pressure was directed towards Everton's goal, without ever offering much threat that it would be breached. Sulley Muntari, always industrious on the left side of midfield, found space in the Everton box for a left-footer which rattled the side netting, while a Muntari free-kick, curled beautifully, needed the merest glance from the head of Papa Bouba Diop to have been a certain goal, but he failed to make any contact. This was ironic, since the free-kick had been awarded for a cynical late tackle from behind on Diop, which brought a yellow card for Tim Cahill.

Muntari, himself, did much better with another set-piece just before half-time, Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard tipping the ball on to the bar and over. As for Everton, Phil Neville's deflected drive from distance was the only occasion David James got to warm his hands. He was not much busier in the second half, either.

Portsmouth roused themselves at the start of the second period, Pedro Mendes shooting over and Kranjcar not managing to apply enough boot to a Glen Johnson cross. Certainly the intentions of both managers remained positive. When Everton removed the yellow-carded Steven Pienaar to bring on Andy Johnson up front with the disappointing Yakubu, Pompey responded by introducing Kanu in place of John Utaka.

Though Portsmouth continued to enjoy the more possession, Everton showed enough on the counter-attack to indicate that, given a break, they might sneak a win, especially when Victor Anichebe replaced Yakubu.

Increasingly, Everton's defensive excellence forced the home side to shoot from longer range, though Lescott's quick reactions, when Howard could not cling on to a Diop rocket, prevented Kanu from side-footing home a winner for Portsmouth.

So stalemate it was. Moyes was not surprised. "There is so much competition now that soon it will be as hard for teams in the Premiership to get into the top 10 as it used to be to get into the top four."