Portsmouth 7 Reading 4: Mwaruwari sits at head of table in goal feast

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The Independent Online

The official attendance for this game was 20,102 but over time that number may well increase. As Jack Charlton once said, if everyone who had told him they had seen England beat Germany in the 1966 World Cup final had actually been there, then the official attendance would have been nearer 500,000 than the official figure of 93,800.

This was certainly not a match on a par with that famous occasion but it was historic in its own way. It was the highest-scoring game in the 15 years and two months of the Premier League's existence, eclipsing the nine-goal tallies achieved six times, most recently three years ago in the north London derby.

However, it fell short of the all-time top-flight record of 14 goals, achieved twice, first in 1892 and then in 1958.

There were six goals in the last 20 minutes and two in the last 60 seconds, while with the score at 3-2 and after a 10-minute drought, Reading's Nicky Shorey saw his penalty saved by David James. Had he scored it, would we still have witnessed 11 or even 12 goals? We will never know, although it certainly ensured the visitors still had to chase the game, and their defence opened up invitingly for Benjani Mwaruwari, who scored a hat-trick, and Nico Kranjcar, who scored once, to exploit the space.

Hermann Hreidarsson popped up with a header before Sean Davis scored thanks to a deflection. Sulley Muntari's penalty was the game's tenth goal and therefore took it into record-breaking territory. Reading's first goal came from a Stephen Hunt header. Then Dave Kitson finished well after a horrible mistake by James, before Shane Long deflected James Harper's volley and Shorey scored the 11th and final goal of a momentous afternoon.

Match of the Day's highlights were a joy to behold as well. The old adage about them "only showing the goals" in matches between the Premier League's lesser lights was never more appropriate. There was no time for anything else.

It had the Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp in raptures, invoking another high-scoring game, the 1960 European Cup final, when Real Madrid beat Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 at Hampden Park.

He was not comparing his players to Alfredo Di Stefano or Ferenc Puskas, but he was proud of his tactics. He said: "It is not easy to play with one striker [Benjani] at home, and it is not really in my nature to do it. But, I don't like square pegs in round holes. I ended up with people playing where they like to play. It shows you what a load of crap it is talking about systems when you play one up and go and score seven goals."

Even Steve Coppell, in defeat, was moved to praise the game for its entertainment value and felt he could take some positives from scoring four goals against a team that had not conceded any in three games.

Yet the Reading manager has now seen his side let in 11 goals in two matches, after also losing 4-2 against Liverpool in the Carling Cup, and he realises he needs to turn things around. "If you don't get results you're not a manager for long," he said.

Having performed so well last year, Reading's first at this level, and with their struggles now, the question of the so-called second-season syndrome cropped up, provoking a fierce response. "I'm fed up with the fucking thing," Coppell retorted. "I've had 17 million questions about second season syndrome. We could have invested more but I decided not to." But the vast majority at Fratton Park were glad they had invested their ticket money on Saturday.

Goals: Benjani (6) 1-0; Benjani (37) 2-0; Hunt (45) 2-1; Kitson (48) 2-2; Hreidarsson (55) 3-2; Benjani (70) 4-2; Kranjcar (75) 5-2; Long (78) 5-3; Davis (81) 6-3; Muntari (pen 90) 7-3; Shorey (90) 7-4. Portsmouth (4-3-3): James; Johnson, Campbell, Distin, Hreidarsson; Diop, Davis, Muntari; Utaka, Benjani (Nugent, 78), Kranjcar. Substitutes not used: Ashdown (gk), Taylor, Pamarot, Mendes.

Reading (4-4-1-1): Hahnemann; Murty (Long, 76), Duberry, Ingimarsson, Shorey; Rosenior, Harper, Gunnarsson (Fae, 76), Hunt; Doyle; Kitson Substitutes not used: Federici (gk), Lita, Bikey.

Referee: M Halsey (Lancashire).

Booked: Reading: Duberry.

Man of the Match: Kranjcar.

Attendance: 20,102.

Highest top-flight scores

* March 1892

Aston Villa 12 Accrington 2

* October 1958

Tottenham 10 Everton 4

* April 1892

West Bromwich Albion 12 Darwen 0

* April 1909

Nottingham Forest 12 Leicester Fosse 0

* September 2007

Portsmouth 7 Reading 4

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