Portsmouth ride the rollercoaster to safety

Portsmouth 3 Birmingham City 1

Thrilling, dramatic, passionate and controversial, this was an emotional roller-coaster of an afternoon that Portsmouth players and fans will not forget in a hurry. Stupendous goals from Dejan Stefanovic and Lomano LuaLua had the home crowd singing the theme song from The Great Escape with ever greater gusto, as Portsmouth chalked up their third win in four games.

It was touch and go for a while. The match was ignited by an outbreak of controversy and drama right on the stroke of half-time. As Yakubu Aiyegbeni chased the ball towards the box, Martin Taylor clumsily headed back to his goalkeeper, Maik Taylor, who had advanced out of his area, only to flap the ball into the path of Yakubu who gleefully rolled it into an empty net.

The ground erupted in celebration but turned to fury when the referee, Barry Knight, ruled out the goal, having earlier blown his whistle for handball. Knight led the protesting procession as he went to consult the linesman, and amid all the sound and fury there was an outbreak of handbags featuring Eyal Berkovic and Kenny Cunningham. This yielded no retribution from Knight, but he then sent off the keeper for handball.

When the dust settled, the upshot was a free-kick for Portsmouth 20 yards out. Up stepped Stefanovic, who curled a dream of a shot around the wall into the bottom corner. Pandemonium. Earlier it had been frustration all the way - a torrent of offsides, even a move which was curtailed by the referee when he got in the way, and a tremendous save by Taylor from Amdy Fayé's header.

Birmingham, who had seemingly woken from the dead after half-time, nevertheless looked finished when LuaLua scored the second in the 60th minute. He left Cunningham for dead on a lightning run from halfway, and raced into the box where Yakubu waited to receive his pass, but the pass went to a defender. But the ball ran back to the striker, who skinned Martin Taylor, and smashed it spectacularly into the corner of the net.

Stern John pulled a goal back for Birmingham, but a deserved win was clinched when Yakubu slotted in a penalty after the unhappy Cunningham handled in the area.

The Birmingham manager, Steve Bruce, was fuming afterwards at the sending-off. "It was absolute nonsense to send off the keeper,'' he said. "If the referee had used a bit of common sense he would have just given the goal and kept 11 players on the pitch, because nobody stopped on his whistle. Then he made it worse by going over to the linesman. How often do we talk about the inadequacy of referees? It was baffling."

The Portsmouth manager, Harry Redknapp, was not worried about that. "It was a vital win for us,'' he said.

Goals: Stefanovic (44) 1-0; LuaLua (60) 2-0; John (67) 2-1; Yakubu (72) 3-1.

Portsmouth (3-5-2): Hislop 6, Primus 6 (Pasanen 5, 50), De Zeeuw 7, Stefanovic 8, Berkovic 6 (Quashie 5, 75), Stone 5, Smertin 6, Fayé 6 (Harper, 82), Yakubu 6, LuaLua 8. Substitutes not used: Wapenaar (gk), Sheringham.

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Maik Taylor 6, Cunningham 5, Tebily 5 (Morrisson, 5, 45), Martin Taylor 4, Upson 7, Johnson 6, Savage 4 (Clemence 5, 58), Hughes 5, Clapham 5, John 6, Forssell 5 (Morrison, 78). Substitutes not used: Motteram , Cissé.

Referee: B Knight (Kent) 4.

Bookings: Portsmouth: Quashie. Birmringham City: Cunningham, Clemence. Sending-off: Taylor.

Man of the Match: LuaLua.

Attendance: 20,104.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
News
news
Life and Style
Jack Cooksey goes for the grand unveiling - moments before dropping his new iPhone 6 on the floor
iphone launch
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
football
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week