Safety first for Allardyce as Pompey left to fret
Blackburn Rovers 2 Portsmouth 0
Sunday 10 May 2009
Now Blackburn Rovers can breathe easily. Unless four of the clubs below them pull off football's equivalent of taking 36 off the last over, they will be in next season's Premier League.
Morten Gamst Pedersen's first goal in 12 months and Benni McCarthy's penalty mean Sam Allardyce's safety mission – launched in December from 19th position – is accomplished with a fortnight to spare.
"I'm going to enjoy tonight and hope the players do because coming from where we have is a big achievement," the manager said. Ewood's survival celebrations went on around Portsmouth, who are now without a win in 12 League trips and a goal in four games after John Utaka squandered a late penalty. They have work to do against Sunderland and Wigan. Only when two down did their display rise above dismal and their manager Paul Hart admitted: "That's by far our worst performance since February. If the players thought the hard work had been done, this was a timely reminder that we can't take our foot off the pedal." Portsmouth might have been in a bigger fix but for their excellent central defenders Sol Campbell and Sylvain Distin, who were harshly represented by seeing one Blackburn striker make the first goal and the other score the second.
They were breached after an opening half-hour that was incident-free apart from when El-Hadji Diouf touched wide a low near-post Stephen Warnock cross set up by McCarthy's lovely back-heel. Some referees would have questioned Christopher Samba's lunge after Warnock's diagonal cross bounced dangerously and David James was sufficiently distracted as to help the ball out only as far as Pedersen, who rifled in left-footed from an angle past Distin on the line. So feeble were Portsmouth going forward that Herman Hreidarsson's off-target header to Sean Davis's long free-kick was their only first-half goal attempt.
Richard Hughes did bring a tumbling save from Paul Robinson soon after the break, only for Blackburn to promptly find the extra gear.
Warnock thought he had secured breathing space with a powerful shot that deflected wide off Hreidarsson, who handled a McCarthy pass shortly afterwards. The South African compounded James' unhappy afternoon by sending him the wrong way with the penalty. At last Pompey posed a threat as Jermaine Pennant arrowed a shot inches wide and his fellow substitute Utaka went round Robinson before seeing his shot blocked by Ryan Nelsen. They couldn't even take advantage when Kanu won a handball decision against Keith Andrews. Utaka cleared the angle by a yard.
Referee: Mike Riley
Man of the match: Tugay
Match rating: 6/10
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