Portsmouth 0 Tottenham 1: Berbatov finds cure for Spurs' travel sickness

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The Independent Football

The volley from Dimitar Berbatov which shattered the deadlock here also demolished a few landmarks along the way. It brought Tottenham their first Premier League away win of the season, while ending a nine-month unbeaten home run by Portsmouth, as well as an 11-game streak.

All the pre-match portents had pointed to a draw, since Pompey had drawn five of their seven home games, while Spurs had done the same in five of their away matches. And for 81 minutes everything seemed on course for another stalemate until the beautifully balanced Bulgarian punished Sol Campbell's inability to cut out an Aaron Lennon cross.

Lennon had performed like a demented wasp in the first half, wasting the openings carved by his electric pace with wretched distribution. Perhaps the manager, Juande Ramos, offered him a few choice thoughts in Spanish at the interval because subsequently the little winger began to pass as impressively as he ran.

The goal was a deserved culmination for Tottenham of increasingly assured play. Lennon, on the corner of the penalty box, floated a centre which looked as if it might be intercepted by the shining skull of Campbell. But if Sol's stretch was not quite adequate, Berbatov's finishing was. He disappeared behind the goal to celebrate with the deliriously happy Spurs fans, and be joined by every other Tottenham player with the exception of the goalkeeper, Paul Robinson.

Ramos, speaking via an interpreter, stressed that the victory was a team success on the day, rather than a Berbatov solo celebration, and he was right, especially in central defence where his side had to cope with the late absence of the linchpin figure of Michael Dawson, taken to hospital with severe migraine problems.

Didier Zokora was drafted into the back line alongside Younes Kaboul, a combination which must have heartened Pompey and dismayed a few Spurs followers. But after a couple of embarrassing miskicks by Kaboul, the Egyptian played near flawless football, blotting out Portsmouth's leading scorer Benjani Mwaruwari. Zokora, meanwhile, seized every chance to surge upfield to set Spurs on the attack, in which he found an excellent ally in the hard-working Jermaine Jenas.

The Portsmouth manager, Harry Redknapp, readily acknowledged Tottenham's superiority: "They were the better team and the best team won.

"They have a group of players who should push to get into the top four if anyone can, and they showed today they are capable of that. We never got going, for some reason. It was the first time I can remember when we haven't performed."

Portsmouth's failure to win their home matches while scoring a hatful on their travels has been put down by Redknapp previously to the smallness of the Fratton Park pitch, but it was the tightness of the marking which stifled the initiative of the Croatian, Niko Kranjcar, and forced the manager to change his 4-5-1 line-up to 4-4-2. "But it made no difference," he admitted.

Tottenham had a first-half score by Steed Malbranque nullified by an offside flag and Berbatov clipped the crossbar with an athletic volley but David James's total of eight clean sheets this season looked like being extended to nine despite the pressure his goal came under.

The Portsmouth keeper kept it intact via a fingertip touch which carried a Lennon centre away from the head of Darren Bent and then it was an extended boot which proved enough to disrupt a run in on goal by Berbatov, Campbell completing the clearance.