Tattered Eagles are torn apart as Fuller starts rout

Portsmouth 3 - Crystal Palace 1
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The Independent Online

Crystal Palace have been slow starters upon their return to the Premiership, although with a missed penalty they partly have themselves to blame for defeat in this game.

Crystal Palace have been slow starters upon their return to the Premiership, although with a missed penalty they partly have themselves to blame for defeat in this game.

The Eagles have lost four matches in a row and are having to face up to the difficulties everyone predicted for them before the season started. Their manager Iain Dowie has also been linked to the vacant Blackburn post but they will need him to remain if they are to stand a chance of surviving at this level.

To their detriment the south London side were also slow off the mark in this match. They conceded the goal that beat them only two minutes into the second half and only three minutes of the game had elapsed when Portsmouth scored the first goal at Fratton Park and Ricardo Fuller collected his first goal for the club.

He joined from Preston just before the transfer window closed at the end of last month and was waiting when Nigel Quashie moved into the area and arguably should have had a penalty when he was fouled. But Quashie got up and pulled the ball back for Fuller, who calmly sidefooted past Julian Speroni from six yards.

Three minutes after that goal, the Jamaican international could have had his second against the club with which he started his career in England. Patrik Berger, popping up on the right flank, floated a ball in and the tall striker sent his header just wide.

With the injuries that Harry Redknapp has seen deplete his side, especially his forwards, he has lacked a settled pairing in attack over the last year. But there seemed some signs of a burgeoning relationship between Fuller and Yakubu Ayegbeni three minutes before the interval when Yakubu set up Fuller, who tried an ambitious curling shot that did not bend enough.

That proved an important miss because on their very next attack Palace equalised. Palace had been given heart after 26 minutes when Danny Granville hit an exquisite 25-yard free-kick that left goalkeeper Shaka Hislop helpless but unluckily rebounded back off the post.

However the adventurous left-back was not to be denied and as Palace gained in confidence they won a corner that Wayne Routledge took and Granville ghosted in, unmarked, to beat Hislop with a header.

But their failure to settle quickly, which cost dear them in the first half, proved Palace's undoing at the start of the second. The defenders backed off as Berger burst through on goal and the Czech's left-foot shot had the power to beat Speroni from 20 yards.

Dowie's half-time team-talk may have been in tatters but Palace still went looking for the equaliser. With the entertainment in this match rising rapidly Andrew Johnson should have pulled his team level when Palace were awarded a penalty as Linvoy Primus hacked at Sandor Torghelle.

Johnson smashed his 56th minute effort down the middle but Hislop punched it out, getting up to claim the headed follow-up as well.

Any hopes Palace still retained of getting back in this game were then extinguished by one of the most bizarre own goals of this or any season as Steve Stone crossed and Tony Popovic stuck out the sole of his boot behind his back only to deflect the ball past Speroni.