Saha extends brave Pompey's nightmare

Portsmouth 0 Everton 1: Hart's beleaguered side win plaudits for heart but defensive lapse allows Everton to inflict a seventh straight defeat

Portsmouth were clapped off the pitch, and why not after establishing a record which dates back to 1930 and was last achieved by Manchester United? Well, it is unusual for a team who have lost seven successive matches to be cheered to the rafters (they still have rafters at Fratton Park).

That was Portsmouth's reward after a defeat which makes theirs the worst start to a top-flight season since a relegation-bound United, in 1930-31, lost their opening 12. The ovation was not out of pity, but pride. Pompey dominated Everton for much of this match, playing well enough to suggest that not only will they avoid eclipsing United's mark, but they should also stay up.

To do so, though, they will, as Paul Hart said, have to stop "shooting ourselves in the foot". This was a reference to the moment's inattention in defence which enabled Louis Saha to score his seventh goal of a flourishing season after 42 minutes.

Thereafter Hart's beleaguered men hit the bar, had a header cleared off the line and forced excellent saves from Tim Howard. These matched an earlier effort which denied Aruna Dindane on his superb Premier League debut. Strong performances from Tommy Smith – such a clever player – along with Kevin Prince Boateng, Jamie O'Hara and Marc Wilson also augured well for Hart.

"We played tremendously well and in the second half we should have scored," said the manager. "Defensively I thought we were very sound and our forward play was excellent. If we play like that, we'll pick up."

Sylvain Distin, who left Fratton for Everton during the summer, said he had told the few of his former team-mates who remain: "You'll be all right if you play like that every week."

David Moyes was equally complimentary. "Paul's put a squad together at the last minute and he's doing a magnificent job with them, you can see that by the players' attitude. They gave him everything to the last minute."

The Everton manager was less kind about his own side. "We can play better. We've not hit the form I expect. We had luck on our side." Hart thought the result was less about fate than finesse. "You can talk about luck, but we should have finished better."

Dindane scuffed Pompey's first chance wide under pressure from Johnny Heitinga but he then brought a reflex fingertip save from Howard following a sublime pass from Smith.

Once behind, their chances came more frequently as Everton retreated. Tal Ben-Haim hit Howard's shoulder with a free header from six yards; Aaron Mokoena headed against the bar after Smith nodded a corner back; and Leighton Baines cleared Hassan Yebda's header off the line. Each of these chances, unusually for Everton, were conceded at set-pieces.

They did so because Younes Kaboul failed to cut out Heitinga's long pass and Anthony Vanden Borre failed to cover his centre-half, allowing Saha, having taken the pass on his chin, to expertly turn a shot past David James.

"It was not great play from Everton," moaned Hart. "If a ball travels 40 yards it should be dealt with." Moyes focused on the scorer. "Louis's a really good player, everyone knows that. If we get him on the pitch he will score goals. Louis worked really hard to get fit in pre-season and the goals are a reward for all that effort."

It was not an entirely isolated strike. James had to stick out a foot to prevent Marouane Fellaini heading in Leon Osman's 36th-minute chip and Smith cleared a Tim Cahill header off the line after 65 minutes.

Everton had by then lost Steven Pienaar, whose knee was bizarrely injured by a butt from his compatriot Mokoena. The damage is yet to be assessed, but Moyes was unhappy at the challenge.

Hart has more to worry about. On Friday the club's new owner, Sulaiman al-Fahim, pledged to back him and provide fresh funds. However, little of the promised £50 million will go on team-building and the club remain unstable, with the chief executive Peter Storrie hinting he may quit – which would at least slash the wage bill. On the pitch, though, there is hope – there are, after all, still 93 points to play for.

Attendance: 18,116

Referee: A Wiley

Man of the match: Smith

Match rating: 7/10

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
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

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project