Ramsey sparks Arsenal spree to plunge Portsmouth into despair

Portsmouth 1 Arsenal 4

When the Portsmouth fans called for their own captain, Aaron Mokoena, to be sent off in the first half and then cheered when he was substituted after the break, you assumed that the bitter mood of rebellion in the Fratton Park stands could get no worse. But it turned out that was just the start of it.

Long before the end of another humiliating defeat, another day in which their club teetered on the brink of administration, the patience of the home crowd simply snapped and they took their vengeance on those they hold responsible for Portsmouth's desperate state. By the end of the match, the rush to the exit in the directors' box was not just about the South Coast cold.

The home fans' chants began with "Where's our money gone?" and "Sack the board" and they culminated with "You're not fit to run our club", blunt sentiments in reference to the club's Saudi Arabian owner, Ali al-Faraj.

And amid all these recriminations a brilliant young Arsenal team took one step closer to the Premier League leaders Chelsea and they were led by the talent of the sublime Aaron Ramsey, 19, who scored the third Arsenal goal. They are four points behind the leaders Chelsea with a game in hand and their fans were not complaining about financial mismanagement: they were singing about winning the league.

As Portsmouth's season went from bad to worse on the day that the Inland Revenue said it had issued a winding-up petition against their club, so Arsène Wenger's team just seemed to flourish. They have now scored 51 goals in the league, more than any other team. "Everybody tells me to buy strikers, but nobody has scored more goals than us in the league," Wenger said. "With the confidence high, everyone can score goals. But we are still in the market."

Ramsey turned 20 years old only on Boxing Day and yet the Welshman already looks like the Steven Gerrard of the Valleys. He has quick feet, far too quick for the hapless Mokoena, who kept bringing him down, and his goal was a great piece of work. The injured Cesc Fabregas should be back in time for Arsenal's next league game against Everton next month but last night they did not miss him.

Ramsey's speed of thought just added to Mokoena's pain. Towards the end of the first half the lumbering midfielder had clattered into Ramsey yet again and the home fans had seen enough. As the referee Alan Wiley reached for his yellow card they began to chant "Off, off, off". When Mokoena was finally substituted in the second half there were cheers around the stadium and you could see in his face that it hurt him.

Faced with a full-scale insurrection at the club, Avram Grant took the easy option and buried his head in the sand. He claimed not to have noticed the treatment of Mokoena, although it was painfully obvious to everyone else in the main stand. Incredibly, the Portsmouth manager claimed that the fans "are behind us", saying: "I know there are problems off the pitch, but I cannot say anything about this. I have sympathy for the fans. We are trying to do our best for them. The situation is not easy."

It was so easy at times for Arsenal, who scored their first goal when Mokoena was too slow for Ramsey and brought him down on the edge of the Blackburn area. As Eduardo lined up the free-kick, Hermann Hreidarrson back-pedalled to cover the goal-line by the left post. He left the smallest of gaps and, in keeping with Pompey's luck, that was where the ball went in via a deflection off Nadir Belhadj.

The second goal came three minutes before the end of the first half. Alex Song found Eduardo in the box. Time slowed down. So did the Portsmouth defence. From Eduardo to Ramsey and on to Samir Nasri, the home team seemed to watch as the Frenchman picked his spot and scored with a low shot.

For the third goal Ramsey took the ball off Anthony Vanden Borre, bolted past Frédéric Piquionne and struck his shot past Begovic. In response the excellent Nadir Belhadj, Pompey's best player, scored from Hassan Yebda's cut back. Song scored the fourth – he was completely unmarked when Nasri crossed from the right. The home team left to the sound of booing.

Portsmouth (4-4-2): Begovic; Finnan, Kaboul, Ben Haim, Hreidarsson; Yebda, Mokoena (Borre, 59), Hughes (Brown, 90), Belhadj; Piquionne, Boateng (Kanu, 71). Substitutes not used: Ashdown (gk), Bouba Diop, Utaka, Wilson.

Arsenal (4-3-3): Almunia; Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Traoré; Ramsey, Song, Diaby; Nasri (Eastmond, 85), Arshavin (Vela, 82), Eduardo (Rosicky, 70). Substitutes not used: Fabianski (gk), Rosicky, Vela, Silvestre, Wilshere, Merida, Eastmond.

Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).

Booked: Portsmouth Mokoena, Hughes.

Man of the match: Ramsey.

Attendance: 20,404.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada