Portsmouth 0 West Ham Utd 0: Green saves Hammers as Benjani pays the penalty

Pompey must settle for share of spoils after striker's last-gasp spot-kick miss
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The Independent Football

Benjani Mwaruwari's goals have been the key to Portsmouth's rapidly improving fortunes in recent weeks, but the Zimbabwean striker's penalty miss here last night cost his side the chance to go fourth in the Premier League table. Mike Dean awarded a spot kick three minutes into injury time after Danny Gabbidon's handball, but Robert Green, crowning a fine performance that strengthened his claims for an England place, dived to his left to keep out Benjani's shot.

The miss earned the Premier League's leading scorer a dressing down from Harry Redknapp after the match. Nico Kranjcar and Sulley Muntari were the manager's nominated penalty takers but Benjani, his confidence high after scoring seven times this season, took the ball out of the former's hands as the Croatian midfielder went forward to take the kick.

"I was quite happy with Nico taking it because he's a good striker of the ball," Redknapp said. "I wasn't pleased when Benji took it off him, but it would have been hard for me to run on the pitch, jump on him and take the ball off him. I couldn't quite get there in time.

"Benji's probably a bit upset because I had a go at him, but I would have given him a bollocking even if he had scored. Having said that, he has been brilliant for us this season."

Alan Curbishley, the West Ham manager, thought the penalty award was harsh – "it was outside the box and not intentional" – and defeat would certainly have been hard on his team.

Mindful that Portsmouth were on a five-match winning run, Curbishley adopted a cautious approach and his team comfortably held an attack that had scored seven goals in their previous home match. "We came here with a game plan and it worked," he said.

Portsmouth started where they had left off in their 11-goal thriller against Reading, but Redknapp's men quickly ran out of steam. West Ham, like Portsmouth, lined up with a lone striker and the home team had increasing difficulty breaking through their massed midfield ranks. A sixth clean sheet in their last seven games will be of some consolation to Redknapp, but he will surely be disappointed with his team's lack of penetration.

Benjani was rarely in the game, although his threat was evident when he managed to find space just outside the West Ham penalty area early in the second half, Green doing well to keep out the striker's ferocious shot.

For the most part it was Kranjcar who provided the biggest Portsmouth threat. The skilful Croat had the beating of Lucas Neill, the West Ham captain, and was always a danger when he cut in from the left. Green made a fine save from the midfielder after only seven minutes, tipping his curling shot over the bar, while only Neill's timely intervention at the far post prevented him from getting on the end of a cross by John Utaka.

West Ham quickly weathered the Portsmouth storm, however, and had chances of their own to take all three points. Unfortunately for Curbishley, the best of them were two headers which fell to Nolberto Solano, who is not exactly at his best in the air.

In the first half Solano made poor contact after Carlton Cole's cross to the far post and in the second he wasted an even better chance. Cole, turning smartly in the penalty area, struck the bar from 10 yards, but when the ball bounced out to Solano the Peruvian, with an empty goal in front of him, sent his diving header wide of the target.

West Ham have had numerous injury problems of late and Craig Bellamy's fitness is now a concern for Curbishley. He did not reappear for the second half because of an abdominal injury. It was not the best of days for the Welsh striker, who was all too easily distracted by a lengthy dispute with Hermann Hreidarrson, his constant complaints earning a yellow card.