Webber gives Portsmouth fresh hope

Portsmouth 1 West Ham United 1

By Mark Fleming
Wednesday 27 January 2010 01:00

To outside eyes, Portsmouth's cause would appear to be a lost one. Firmly glued to the bottom of the Premier League, they have no money, they cannot pay their wages and even their mysterious owner Ali al-Faraj cannot bear to watch them. But their players are not giving up the ghost just yet.

For the fourth game in a row, Portsmouth responded to going a goal behind by getting back on their feet to fight their way back into the match. Against West Ham they fell behind to Matthew Upson's fluke, but their resolve earned its own reward with 14 minutes to go with an equaliser from Danny Webber. Portsmouth are refusing to die. As manager Avram Grant said: "We're still in the game, and it won't be easy to kill us."

A point is not nearly enough for Portsmouth, but it does demonstrate their fighting spirit. They were deeply indebted to goalkeeper Asmir Begovic for not falling behind in the first half. The Bosnian saved bravely from West Ham's Frank Nouble, and then parried Alessandro Diamanti's rebound. The 22-year-old's best save was at full-stretch to deny Jack Collison, a wonderful reaction stop when it appeared West Ham were about to go ahead.

The visitors' need for a new striker was plain for all to see. Carlton Cole came off the bench to play his first football for two months, but the new owners are set to bring in at least Blackburn's Benni McCarthy before the transfer window closes on Monday.

The excellent Begovic could do nothing about West Ham's goal. Diamanti's cross to the far post looked innocuous but Younes Kaboul's clearing header rebounded off Upson's chest and looped over Begovic.

Portsmouth responded with some frenzied attacking. Finally, the introduction of Webber for the injured Frédéric Piquionne earned them an equaliser. A long ball reached John Utaka, the Nigerian slipped the ball into Webber's path, who finished between Robert Green's legs.

Utaka almost won the game in stoppage time. Given Portsmouth's season, it would have been just reward for Grant. "We are working hard and talking a lot about this situation," he said. "You need a lot of character. I just hope we score the first goal next time."

Portsmouth (4-3-2-1): Begovic; Finnan, Kaboul, Wilson, Hreidarsson; Mullins (Vanden Borre, 64), Basinas, Mokoena; Boateng, Utaka; Piquionne (Webber, 73). Substitutes not used: Ashdown (gk), Hughes, Ben Haim, Ritchie.

West Ham United (4-4-2): Green; Faubert, Tomkins (Da Costa, 80), Upson, Spector; Behrami, Noble, Kovac, Collison; Nouble (Cole, 73), Diamanti (Stanislas, 87). Substitutes not used: Stech (gk), Jiminez, Sears, Daprela.

Referee: A Marriner (West Midlands)

Booked: Portsmouth: Basinas, Boateng, Mokoena; West Ham: Noble

Man of the match: Begovic

Attendance: 18,322.

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