As a match, this was a mis-match and with Spurs missing players because
they were injured and Portsmouth missing players generally, there was
just enough done by Spurs to win 2-0, but Pompey did have their chances,
although they failed to take them.
A half-paced match was never setting the
pulse racing, but there were enough bits of interest to keep the crowd
paying attention, although I must admit at the end, I thought Portsmouth
were down to eight fit players and I had remembered they only started
with six on the bench. Spurs in turn had to shuffle their pack and
Kyle Walker started at right back for his debut in a Spurs shirt.
The game started off with the usual
threat of Gareth Bale's pace taking him down the left wing.
Unfortunately, having got past Vanden Borre, his cross only found David
James' arms but the next cross came in from Niko Kranjcar and although
Eidur Gudjohnsen made a good run to the near post, his header went wide.
Portsmouth began to find space, as Spurs allowed them to break with the
ball and when Piquionne crossed from the right wing, after getting past
Bassong, there was nobody in the middle to finish his good work.
It was perhaps a lax Tottenham that faced Portsmouth when they allowed
Vanden Borre and Piquionne to link up on the left side of the box and
the former ran into the box to take a return pass to put him in on goal,
behind the Spurs defence. Heurelho Gomes, who has been in very
good form for Tottenham, came to the team's rescue with an advance to
block the midfielder's low shot with his legs to keep the score-line
goal-less in the 18th minute.
David Bentley was finding space on the
right and his crosses were troubling the Portsmouth back-line, but his
19th minute corner was well delivered to Bale on the edge of the box and
it was struck on the volley, heading for the bottom left corner of the
goal until a deflection took it wide for another corner. In the
27th minute, Tottenham made the breakthrough and it was Peter Crouch
scoring against his old side that did it. A move that started at
the back with Gomes throwing out to Gareth Bale, who made a run two
thirds the length of the pitch to cross to the near post, where Crouch
got between Mokoena and Mullins to head past David James, who was rooted
to his line. The defenders probably thought James should have come
for the ball and he certainly would have been nearer to Crouch if he had
come for it.
A corner was cleared shortly after
the goal and Bentley put a heavy cross into the near post area, where
Michael Dawson met it with a powerful header that flew past the post and
if it had been on target, James would not have had much chance in
stopping it. Then, in the 35th minute, another corner was cleared
to Tom Huddlestone 25 yards out. He side-stepped two Portsmouth
players and thrashed a drive from 20 yards that rocked the crossbar and
bounced up into the air, the ball was knocked back into the box and
headed on by Bassong to Crouch, who volleyed the high bouncing ball with
an effort that looked as though it was going high over the bar.
However, the striker's technique made the ball dip over James and it
bounced off the post and then off Mokoena for another corner. From
that Crouch teed himself up for an over-head kick that was straight at
David James in the Pompey goal. The woodwork and a second injury
to Richard Hughes only delayed the inevitable second Tottenham goal.
This one was a bit cheeky in it's final
execution, but was well crafted down the right wing. Bentley put
Kyle Walker away on the wing and he went around a defender to get to the
dead-ball line and pulled a low ball back to Luka Modric on the edge of
the area and the Croatian's shot was blocked in the box, but popped up
off Hayden Mullins to Niko Kranjcar. With his back to the goal,
the midfielder back-heeled the ball away from James and into the
opposite corner of the net. 41 minutes gone and 2-0 to Spurs.
Within a minute, Gomes was keeping
Portsmouth out at the other end, when a right wing cross was headed back
into the middle of the area, where Michael Brown had a clear shot at
goal from five yards. Heurelho closed him down quickly and blocked
his effort, which was then cleared away. It was strange to see
Brown in the penalty area, as he had spent most of the first half
chasing after Luka Modric, who had the temerity to foul him early on.
Brown put a lot of effort in, but this was obviously not matched by his
team-mates, who he berated with a screech of "Come on", after a Spurs
player had got away from him and nobody bothered to track back to pick
The second half was all a bit
embarrassing, as Spurs went through the motions without hitting top form
to try and add to the score and Portsmouth went through the motions of
trying to keep the score respectable. It wasn't the normal cut and
thrust of Premier League football you might expect, but when one side is
one defeat away from losing that status, perhaps it is not too
surprising. Things weren't helped when a Spurs corner ended with Herman
Hreidarsson crumpling to the floor at the far post with nobody around
him. Stretchered off, it appears he tore his Achilles and will be
out for some time.
Both sides went close, with Bentley's
cross from the right just too high for Gudjohnsen coming in at the far
post and Gome parrying a shot from Nwankwo Kanu and having to recover
well to hold it before Danny Webber closed in on the loose ball.
Spurs had their own injury scare when
Michael Dawson pulled up and went off to be replaced by Younes Kaboul as
a precaution. It made little difference to the flow of the game,
as Bentley put Walker away as he had done for the goal and the defender
pulled the ball back for Crouch this time, who might have had more
success with a first time shot, but he tried to make a volley for
himself and his shot was blocked away. That was in the 62 minute
and two minutes later, Harry brought on Assou-Ekotto for Kranjcar, with
Bale moving into left midfield and Benny taking his normal left back
Brown once more popped up in the Spurs
area, but could not get a shot in as Kaboul made a well-timed challenge
to halt his progress. Hughes, who had a poor game, finally got a
booking his fouls deserved in the 74th minute, when he received a yellow
card and then Kyle Walker put a mis-placed pass into the path of Kanu,
who was through on goal, but managed to kick the ball straight in front
of him from left of the goal, rather than on target and make Gomes make
a save. With 12 minutes left, it might have given Portsmouth some
encouragement, but as it was the wheels fell off their wagon in the next
Firstly, Sebastien Bassong rose to head a
corner downwards and James grabbed the ball on the floor a yard out from
his line and then only the presence of Mullins stopped Pavlyuchenko
getting onto the end of Assou-Ekotto's left wing cross at the far post.
Another attack saw Bale's intended cross spin off a defender and go high
into the air. James jumped to keep it in, but started feeling his
calf and then in the next passage of play, Danny Webber went down
holding his knee. It resulted with Webber being the second player
carried off and James limping off to be replaced by Ashdown. This
meant that with Basinas being replaced previously by Owusu-Abeyie, there
were no subs left to replace Webber and the last few minutes were played
out with ten Pompey players on the pitch.
Spurs kept going on the attack, but only
produced two more efforts on goal, with Bale having a shot stopped by
Ashdown and then Crouch was released into the left side of the box to
slide a shot past the keeper, but also past the far post.
The final whistle failed to cheer the
away players too much, but their fans greeted them like heroes.
Shirts were swapped as it will probably be some time before the Pompey
players meet Premier opposition regularly again. And that is all
down to the fact that a large amount of honk has been spent or frittered
away at Fratton Park. There is little doubt that the side will
break up on relegation, as the administrator has made comments about
having to sell the entire first team to survive, but then not all of
them belong to the club anyway.
It has left them short on and off the
pitch and with these injuries, they will be hard pushed to form a squad
for the FA Cup semi-final in a fortnight.
For Spurs it was a fairly routine three
points, but for Portsmouth, it almost spelled the end.