Not a game for the purists in at times atrocious conditions, but Tottenham deservedly became only the fourth side to take a point at the home of the Premiership's most improved team yesterday to ease the away-day blues that have dogged them all season.
After falling behind to a deflected drive by Portsmouth's record signing Benjani, Steed Malbranque levelled for Spurs and only three excellent saves from the evergreen David James prevented the Londoners snatching all three points in a game that improved measurably after the break.
After their defeats 48 hours earlier, both teams were eager to start the new year more encouragingly. Harry Redknapp made three changes and Martin Jol two to cope with the demands of the heavy holiday period and it was the visitors who played the cleaner football in the opening period.
With four ex-Spurs players in their starting line-up, Pompey should have been up for the game, but instead looked uncharacteristically limp, in part possibly at having to make a tactical early change when their left-back Noe Pamarot tore his groin and limped off to be replaced by the Croatian midfielder Nico Kranjcar, Matthew Taylor moving back into defence. Yet Pompey grabbed the lead with their first seriously dangerous raid, Benjani bringing the crowd to their feet with a fierce drive that took a wicked deflection off Calum Davenport.
Cue an inspired if enforced substitution from the Spurs manager when Danny Murphy replaced Hossam Ghaly, who broke four teeth and split his lip in a first-minute accidental clash with Pamarot and had to go off for lengthy treatment. Five minutes after half-time and moments after James had pulled off a reaction save to thwart Davenport, Murphy crossed intelligently and an unmarked Steed Malbranque buried the header.
Only now did the hosts step up a gear, running at a defence that started to give away a load of free-kicks just outside their area. But with Davenport doing a sterling job alongside Michael Dawson in the absence of the injured Ledley King, Portsmouth could not find a winner and in the end were indebted to James for further saves from Jermain Defoe and, breathtakingly, from a rasping Tom Huddlestone drive.
"You can't achieve anything if you don't show grit and we did that," Jol said. "I couldn't believe Ghaly stayed on the pitch for so long, I thought they must have been false teeth! The tackle on him was cynical but, overall, I thought we were a bit better than them and I'm happy with where we are, in the top seven and the semi-final of the Carling Cup, after all the games we've been playing."
Redknapp disagreed with Jol's version of events about Ghaly, describing it as "bollocks". He preferred to concentrate on dismissing rumours that Kanu wants a move to Ajax and to pay tribute to his goalkeeper, who has done as much as anyone to keep Portsmouth in the top six all season and maintain their remarkable transformation that has already yielded two points fewer than they achieved throughout the whole of last season. "I had a lot of opposition when I took David but he trains like no one I've ever seen. He'll play well beyond 40," Redknapp said.
Goals: Benjani (29) 1-0; Malbranque (50) 1-1.
Portsmouth (4-4-2): James; Johnson, Primus, Campbell, Pamarot (Kranjcar, 13); Taylor, O'Neill (Cole, 72), Davis, Mendes; Kanu, Benjani Substitutes not used: Ashdown, O'Brien, Fernandez.
Tottenham Hotspur(4-4-2): Robinson (capt); Chimbonda, Dawson, Davenport, Lee; Malbranque (Gardner 78), Huddlestone, Tainio, Ghaly (Murphy 46); Defoe, Berbatov. Substitutes not used: Cerny (gk), Zakora, Ziegler.
Referee: A Marriner (West Midlands)
Booked: Portsmouth Taylor; Tottenham Tainio, Lee, Davenport, Malbranque.
Man of the match: James.
Attendance 20, 194.Reuse content