Portsmouth 7 Reading 4: Benjani and Pompey in seven heaven

Slipshod defending and hat-trick combine to produce the biggest goals aggregate in Premier League history
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The Independent Football

There have been rugby games that finish with scores like this and yet this was a football match where, remarkably, the goal tally could have been higher still. As it turned out, this was the highest-scoring game in Premier League history, beating the previous record of nine.

The major factor in the mayhem, apart from two very accommodating defences, was Benjani Mwaruwari, who scored a hat-trick, his three goals ultimately separating the two teams. His was the afternoon's outstanding single contribution.

Yet Steve Coppell, the Reading manager, had it absolutely right when he said: "There was nothing to indicate the game would explode the way it did." After a pedestrian first half, when Portsmouth utterly controlled the game and yet had a only one-goal advantage, the match was suddenly transformed.

There were eight goals in the second half and there would have been one more had Reading's Graeme Murty not missed a penalty. For a giddy half-hour, every shot on goal went in.

Coppell's face showed every ounce of the pain and embarrassment he was feeling. Being part of a record-breaking afternoon was naturally of no consolation to him. The fun was all Harry Redknapp's, who might not even have picked Benjani had it not been for an injury to Nwankwo Kanu, his first-choice centre-forward.

It will go down as the game – until someone scores 12 – that people will remember, boast and lie where they were to claim some association with it. Yet after 45 minutes Pompey had strolled to a two-goal lead and it looked like being the most basic of wins.

They had claimed that lead thanks to Benjani hooking home John Utaka's cross after six minutes, an advantage they doubled eight minutes before the interval with Benjani's best goal of the afternoon. He cut in from the right and beat Marcus Hahnemann from 25 yards.

Crucial to the eventual deluge of goals was Stephen Hunt's header in first-half injury time. It gave the visitors some hope, after they had lost 4-2 in midweek to Liverpool. That hope gained further momentum after a mistake by David James, well outside his penalty area, who let in Dave Kitson, whose finish was sublime from a tight angle and 35 yards.

Pompey had their third soon after when Hermann Hreidarsson – perhaps his unlikely goal was the best signal of the frenzythat was to follow – headed past Hahnemann before Reading were gifted the chance of an equaliser after the referee spotted a handball by Papa Bouba Diop. Murty's miss was vital, as James redeemed himself with a save and the momentum had swung back to Portsmouth.

Coppell identified that 10- minute spell as crucial. "We had five good minutes and put ourselves in a position to win. Our penalty miss was critical and so was their third."

Redknapp declared: "We were fantastic," but it was their fourth that gave them the space they needed once more, Benjani put through by Sulley Muntari as Reading pressed forward.

With the game opening up by the minute, Nico Kranjcar showed his ability and it was his header from Sean Davis's cross that gave the hosts a three-goal advantage, which Redknapp joked later was all he was concentrating on from the sidelines, rather than the enjoyment provided by all the goals.

However, James Harper briefly gave Reading hope of an unforgettable comeback with a fine volley, although he perhaps should have realised that would not be the end of it. Unfortunately for the midfielder it was not, as Davis, with the help of a deflection, beat Hahnemann from range.

Muntari added to the visitors' misery with a successful penaltyafter Kranjcar was brought down, but there was still time for Reading to reduce the deficit once again when Nicky Shorey's shot was deflected deep ininjury time.

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