Portsmouth 3 Derby County 1: Benjani hat-trick quenches Pompey goal thirst

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The Independent Football

Portsmouth rediscovered some of their early-season zest thanks to a brilliant contribution from striker Benjani Mwaruwari. His second hat-trick this term took only 17 minutes to compile either side of half-time, but it ended a Premier League goalscoring drought for his side at Fratton Park that had entered its seventh game.

The manager, Harry Redknapp, whose side had fallen behind to an early strike from Lewin Nyatanga, may feel better now about not taking the Newcastle job, this being Portsmouth's first victory since that uncertainty surfaced. He will also be grateful Benjani, a Zimbabwean, had no need to join the four Pompey players in Ghana for the African Nations Cup.

"He's a great lad, you couldn't meet a nicer person," said Redknapp. "He's also tough as iron and plays through knocks. His hamstring was tight before the game and he had a calf problem but he wanted to play. He has not had an easy life and has learnt things the hard way."

Redknapp's opposite number, Paul Jewell, is already preparing for Championship football after Derby's 18th Premier League defeat. "We started brightly and thought that after they had gone six games without a goal here it was a good time to play them," said Jewell, whose record since replacing Billy Davies in November stands at one point from nine games. "But our Achilles' heel is our defending and we won't win another game if we defend like that. The third goal was particularly bad."

Redknapp underlined his commitment to the club in yesterday's programme, saying he was "Pompey until I die". What he needed was a response from his team, who had failed to conjure a League goal at Fratton Park since late September. On that occasion they trounced Reading 7-4, which hardly suggested an impending drought.

Derby capitalised on their opponents' fragile nerves, and the absence of Sol Campbell with a back injury, by taking the lead after four minutes. Laurent Robert's free-kick from the right curled menacingly across David James' goal, Darren Moore headed the ball back across, Kenny Miller's subsequent header was tipped against the bar by James and Nyatanga tucked it away.

James then denied Miller from close range – "We may have only lost 3-2 had that gone in," quipped Jewell – and David Nugent hooked over Lewis Price's bar at the other end. It was some start.

Lassana Diarra, Portsmouth's apparently reluctant £5 million signing from Arsenal, was having a torrid time in midfield as he battled with Robbie Savage and picked up a booking for a foul on Hossam Ghaly.

Gradually, though, Portsmouth improved on Niko Kranjcar's two speculative efforts and got themselves back into the game. Benjani brought them level seven minutes before the break, turning Nyatanga neatly before finishing off an excellent move from close range. They had waited 577 minutes for that, yet Benjani's second came just four minutes later, this time heading in Nugent's cross.

His hat-trick goal, 10 minutes into the second half ,was the pick of the bunch. The ball was moved out of defence for the striker, who turned Andy Todd with consummate ease before exchanging passes with Pedro Mendes and slotting past Price using all his new-found confidence.

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