Portsmouth 2 Watford 1: Watford left all at sea as Kanu inspires victory

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The Independent Football

Lomana LuaLua blasted home an 88th-minute penalty to leave Watford broken-hearted after a brave battle to resist a below-par Portsmouth at Fratton Park. Pompey needed Kanu's eighth goal of the season just before half time to drag them back into the match after Jay DeMerit capitalised on poor marking at a corner to head the Hornets in front in the 32nd minute.

And late in a second half it was Kanu who went down in the area from DeMerit's seemingly innocuous challenge from behind to set up his strike partner to ram in winner. The points were welcome for Pompey who dropped two at home to Fulham last week but they rarely sparkled on a dull afternoon.

Sean Davis missed two good chances to get his first goal of the season but Watford looked like taking only their third away point of the campaign even after goalkeeper Ben Foster failed to appear for the second half because of injury. Pompey had been given ample warning by manager Harry Redknapp and his assistant Tony Adams about the need to watch Watford's powerhouse set-piece play. But they were sloppy from the start when David Thompson, a lively right-sided attacker in only his third start for the club, tried to steer a free-kick back to David James only to leave it short and see Watford's Malky Mackay lift it over with only the the former Vicarage Road goalkeeper to beat.

James's opposite number Foster took the eye after that. The 23-year-old, who took the former Manchester City keeper's place on the England bench in Holland on Wednesday, saved well from LuaLua - who also shot wide when Watford's offside trap failed. But after being beaten by Kanu's equaliser just before the break he failed to appear for the second half having twice been treated for an injury on the pitch. Watford, who dropped £1.6million defender Danny Shittu after last week's Didier Drogba-mauling by Chelsea, wanted a penalty after 28 minutes when Matthew Spring's cross from the right was turned back into the goalmouth by Young and hit Linvoy Primus on the hand.

Referee referee Chris Foy rightly ruled it accidental but then failed to spot Watford's Lloyd Doyley tugging at LuaLua's shirt after 30 minutes when the striker was set to race clear. And it was Watford who went ahead two minutes later when Pompey captain Dejan Stefanovic gave away a corner and failed to pick up DeMerit from the impressive Young's cross. The big American defender, aided by Darius Henderson's clever dummy run, thumped home a header for only the third Watford away goal this season. Hameur Bouazza, still suffering from an earlier challenge by Thompson which earned a booking for injured Gary O'Neil's deputy, hobbled off soon afterwards to be replaced by striker Tamas Priskin for the visitors.

And Portsmouth levelled matters just before the break with the prolific Kanu again on target for his eighth goal in 12 matches. Thompson's right-wing cross found the Nigerian at the far post for a shot which Foster brilliantly pushed out but when Davis slid in the ball ran loose and Kanu coolly lifted it into the roof of the net. Pompey almost went ahead in stoppage time when Foster made a flying save to keep out Pedro Mendes' long-range strike. Richard Lee took over in goal for Watford in the second half and full-back Jordan Stewart was soon booked for a foul on Thompson. And the newcomer should have been left helpless when Davis, completely unmarked, got his head to LuaLua's cross only to nod it wastefully wide. It signalled a step-up in gear by Pompey and they added substitute Andrew Cole to their forward-line after 63 minutes.

It was Cole, though, who fouled Lee as Sol Campbell's long-range free-kick bounced into the net and ref Foy took appropriate action. But there was no escape for Watford despite Lee saving bravely at Davis's feet following a monster clearance by James. DeMerit was booked for the foul, a slight tug at Kanu's shoulder it appeared, but it was an injustice for his inspired performance at the back.