Portsmouth 1 Birmingham City 1 - Premier League - Football - The Independent

Portsmouth 1 Birmingham City 1

LuaLua's trickery is not enough to conjure a win

Bruce tried to defend his former Manchester United team-mate, and confronted the referee, Dermot Gallagher, and Bernard Baker, the linesman who drew his attention to the offence, at half-time, but there was no disguising the fact that Butt, as though enacting a moment of Buster Keaton slapstick, had aimed a kick at Dario Silva's rear as the two jostled for position before a free-kick.

"What I can't understand," Bruce said, "is if he sends Butt off for flicking out a foot that misses, why was the other guy not sent off for raising his arm? There's people paid good money today and we like to see a bit of fisticuffs. In my day the referee would have had a quiet word and that would have been the end of it. The game's in danger of being neutered."

Whether Butt did actually miss is debatable, but if he did, his incompetence was entirely in keeping with a poor game. After an early flurry that brought a goal each inside six minutes, the Butt-on-butt action was the highlight of the first half. Amid all the hand-wringing about declining attendances and the apparent deflation of the football bubble, one of the major factors cited as contributing to the decline has been the increasing use of the 4-5-1 formation. Yesterday Portsmouth and Birmingham proved that it is still perfectly possible to play tedious football with a traditional 4-4-2.

Both early goals were the result of dreadful marking. Lomana LuaLua bundled Portsmouth in front as a Laurent Robert corner dropped to him at the near post after four minutes, only for Jiri Jarosik to convert a Jermaine Pennant free-kick with a powerful header two minutes later. Thereafter it was drab, bitty football that spoke volumes about why both sides began the day averaging less than a point a game. LuaLua, with his trickery and surging arabesques, threatened occasionally, but he seemed to have no understanding with Silva whatsoever.

Even with the extra man, it was only after the arrival of the Serbian substitute Zvonimir Vukic, an oasis of class in a very barren desert, that Portsmouth began to create chances. Gary O'Neil, neatly set up by Robert, drew a fine diving save from Maik Taylor, and the goalkeeper did well to parry from Silva a couple of minutes later. Vukic blazed over from close range and O'Neil stabbed wide in the closing seconds after Taylor had fumbled a Robert free-kick, but the chance that the Portsmouth manager, Alain Perrin, chose to focus on was one that was denied them.

With 63 minutes played, Silva spun into the box, only to be hauled back by Oliver Tebily, who had such a grasp of his shirt that the Uruguayan resembled an excited puppy straining at the leash. "For sure that was a penalty," Perrin said. "Everybody in the stadium saw it was a penalty; only one man did not. But after that we had many chances to score. We were unlucky - I don't know how many shots we had."

Half a dozen would be a reasonable estimate, which was nowhere near enough.

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week