Portsmouth 1 Fulham 1: Coleman content after Knight and Niemi frustrate Portsmouth

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The Independent Online

Chris Coleman hailed goalkeeper Antti Niemi and his reformed centre-back Zat Knight as the heroes of a backs-to-the-wall fight at Portsmouth.

Knight headed Fulham in front with his first goal since May 2005, and only his third for the club, 12 minutes after the break and largely tamed Kanu. But it was Niemi who stole the show with a string of saves which denied Kanu, Lomana LuaLua and substitute Benjani Mwaruwari until another substitute, the veteran Andy Cole, came up with a highly contentious 74th-minute equaliser.

Coleman, whose side also survived Pompey's Sean Davis, Noe Pamarot and Linvoy Primus all hitting the frame of their goal, said: "Antti's shot-stopping was superb. I think his form gets better the older he gets. He pulled off two or three fantastic saves against Portsmouth and I didn't think he was going to be beaten.

"I thought any goal they scored would be a controversial one and unfortunately it was. But Antti's consistency is fantastic."

Cole stabbed the ball across the line in a hectic goalmouth scramble but Fulham claimed Niemi had been fouled by Kanu. The Nigerian was lucky not to have been penalised for kicking the ball out of the Finnish goalkeeper's hands and he then appeared to hold Niemi back as Cole flicked home. It was no more than Portsmouth deserved.

The 6ft 5in Knight was dropped by Coleman for a spell last season after breaking club rules on socialising too close to match day but he did regain his place at the start of the season. Coleman said: "Zat has matured a bit from last season. He took his foot off the gas once he got into the England squad last season and tended to relax a bit.

"But he's found out you can't afford to do that and since pre-season he's been magnificent, his concentration in training has been tip-top."

Fulham now have the same amount of away points - seven - as they accumulated all last season. Their 4-5-1 style is not pretty to watch but it is effective and they have not lost an away game since their opening day 5-1 defeat at Manchester United.

"We're doing well but it is fine with me that other people are not really talking about us," Coleman said. "We have changed everything about the way we approach away matches. The time we arrive in the dressing room, the times when we eat, the time when I give my team talk. It is all different to last season and it is paying off."

Portsmouth, meanwhile, fear their "fantastic" on-loan full-back Glen Johnson will be out for a major part of the season if he has to have an operation on his torn thigh muscle. Chelsea, who have farmed out Johnson to Portsmouth for the season, will have the final say on whether he is to have surgery.

The defender went back to Stamford Bridge for treatment last week, and if an operation is necessary, it will redouble Redknapp's intention of moving back into the transfer market in January. The Frenchman Pamarot passed a late test on a hamstring injury to deputise efficiently against Fulham for Johnson, who also missed last week's 3-0 defeat at Manchester United.

Cole's 280th career goal in club football - and his second for Pompey - saved them a fifth defeat in seven games and spared some of Kanu's blushes after the striker fluffed a third-minute opportunity.

"We battered them," said Redknapp, "but Fulham's 4-5-1 system is hard to break down and it was one of those days when a goal wouldn't go in until Andy Cole came on and nicked one.

"He was a substitute again after a groin strain in the week but I don't see him as that. He's not started in the Premiership for us yet but he is keen to do so and I want that, too.

"We played well enough and it would have been a travesty if we had got nothing although we really needed three points instead of one."

Goals: Knight (57) 0-1; Cole (74) 1-1.

Portsmouth (4-4-2): James; Pamarot, Primus, Campbell, Stefanovic; O'Neil (Thompson, 87), Davis, Pedro Mendes, Taylor (Cole, 66); Kanu (Mwaruwari, 83), LuaLua. Substitutes not used: Kiely (gk), O'Brien.

Fulham (4-5-1): Niemi; Rosenior, Knight, Pearce, Queudrue; Boa Morte, Bocanegra, C Jensen (Diop, 86), Volz (Routledge, 79), Radzinski; McBride (John, 90). Substitutes not used: Lastuvka (gk), Helguson.

Referee: S Bennett (Kent).

Booked: Fulham Knight, Niemi, Queudrue.

Man of the match: Niemi.

Attendance: 19,563.

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