Portsmouth 2 Blackburn Rovers 2: Todorov leveller shows strength of Harry's suit

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The Independent Online

Nothing is begotten out of nothing, unless it is a Craig Bellamy goal. Twice the Wales striker spirited goals from the ether yesterday as Portsmouth strove for a fourth straight win from a game they dominated almost from start to finish. Indeed, only an equaliser from the Bulgarian substitute Svetoslav Todorov with 12 minutes remaining saved Pompey from a travesty of a defeat.

A calf injury to Andy O'Brien prevented Redknapp from naming the same side for a fourth successive game, but other things remained unchanged as he wore the same grey trousers, blue striped tie and navy blazer that had contributed to victories over Manchester City, West Ham and Fulham. Redknapp recalled this week that a similar deployment of lucky clothing had brought a 20-game unbeaten run in his time as manager of Bournemouth, by the end of which his suit was, in his words, "walking to the ground by itself". If there is a sweaty stench emanating from the home dug-out at Fratton Park on the final day of this season, Pompey fans will identify it as the sweet smell of success.

Survival seemed implausible three weeks ago, but those victories have inspired an optimism at Portsmouth, their confidence obvious as early as the second minute as Pedro Mendes sent a 30-yard volley skimming just over from a corner routine. That set the tone for Portsmouth dominance, but also for their wastefulness in front of goal.

Twice Andres D'Alessandro snatched at chances from good positions at the top of the box, the first scudding wide, the second drawing a fine double save from Brad Friedel as his initial block cannoned goalwards off Robbie Savage. Goals have been a problem for Portsmouth at home this season - 14 previous games had yielded just 10 - and it is not difficult to see why.

Lomana LuaLua, for all the finesse of his touch, is, as Redknapp said, "a lone ranger", prone to idiosyncratic wanderings, and his understanding with Benjani Mwaruwari remains tenuous. Put through on the left side of the box after 23 minutes, LuaLua could have squared for the Zimbabwean, but opted instead to shoot from a tight angle, allowing Friedel a simple parry.

Then again, given Benjani had failed to score in his nine previous starts, perhaps shooting was the percentage option. It is hard not to have sympathy with Portsmouth's record signing, who has shown his devotion to the cause by postponing an operation on a troublesome knee until the end of the season, for chances seem to send him spinning into a vortex of doubt. When he bustled his way to a position 12 yards from goal with just Friedel to beat, his panic was almost tangible and jabbed his shot straight at the American.

Equally it would be unfair to condemn LuaLua, because his eccentric approach can bring results. Four minutes before half-time, he drifted through a handful of half-hearted challenges along the 18-yard line, turned suddenly to his left, and clipped a shot inside the upright. An exquisite goal, but it was only an equaliser, Blackburn having taken the lead with their one significant attack of the half. Bellamy seized on the loose ball as Savage challenged Mendes and from the top left corner of the box, shot across Linvoy Primus and just inside the post.

Mark Hughes has acknowledged that Bellamy has been the main reason for Blackburn's improvement this season, and he restored their lead 17 minutes after the restart with his 13th League goal of the season. Again it came from little more than a half chance, as he received David Bentley's pass with his back to goal, span and lashed his shot on the turn into the top corner.

Defeat, though, would have been unbearably harsh on Portsmouth, and, after LuaLua, Matthew Taylor and Dejan Stefanovic all went close, Todorov finally equalised with 12 minutes remaining, nodding Taylor's left-wing cross firmly past Friedel. Stefanovic then rattled a drive into the knees of the unsighted goalkeeper, but the winner they probably deserved continued to elude Pompey. With four of their six remaining games at home, salvation remains a possibility, but this felt like an opportunity missed.

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