The script was written by the media and Pompey was a mere formality that stood in the way of an all-London FA cup final, reports Gary Bowen.
Harry Redknapp tasted FA cup success with Pompey in 2008 and was now on the brink of another cup final appearance, although this time at their expense. After a disastrious season, few seriously gave Portsmouth a chance of over-coming a star-studded Spurs outfit riding high in the league and a whisker away from Champions League football next year.
Except, that is, the 35,000 strong Pompey faithful who made the pilgrimage to the hallowed (and slippery) turf of Wembley. Pompey added another fairytale chapter to the history of this great competition with a gutsy backs-to-the-wall effort that slapped the critics fair and square in the face for writing them off. Hell,they are already being written off against Chelsea!!!!
When will the critics learn?…..This is Pompey we are talking about!
It was a very different looking Portsmouth side from their last outing with returns for Wilson, Dindane, Yebda and a timely recovery from injury for
Kevin Prince-Boateng. Pompey old boy Niko Krankjar started on the bench for Spurs and Vedron Corluka was back in the starting eleven.
Spurs started in a flurry, Bentley’s corners bombing in like missile fire. Mokeona and Rocha were involved in everything early, tackling strongly and
rebounding the Spurs attacks. At the other end of the ground Boateng assumed dead-ball duties in the
absence of Jamie O’Hara.
As the half progressed, so did the tempo and it was exciting end to end stuff. Gareth Bale was looking more and more dangerous down the left as the
half unfolded. It was an even first half in which Tottenham peppered Portsmouths goal, mainly with high balls into the box searching for Crouch, while Pompey were happy to try and hit on the counter-attack. Yebda’s through ball to Piquionne gave Pompey their best chance of the half, but Gomez saved with his legs.
Spurs started the second half brightly and Defoe almost caught Pompey cold but for Rocha to block his effort. Defoe appeared flat and squandered many half- chances. He was replaced just before the hour with Pavlyuchenko.Spurs were making most of the play early on, but getting frustrated. Pompey weathered the onslaught, which included Mokeona clearing off the line.
It seemed it was only a matter of time before Spurs broke the deadlock, but as time passed Pompey wrestled back some momentum and their confidence started to grow. Tottenham, often accused of nerves on the big stage, looked to get more anxious as the game progressed. Portsmouth, sporting a special kit for the occaision, on the other hand sensed that an opportunity was there for the taking.
The defining moment came about when the unfortunate Michael Dawson slipped on the soft turf inside the penalty box, gifting the opportunity for
Piquionne to slot past Gomez. It came from a Wilson free-kick which was nodded down neatly by Boateng. The Portsmouth faithful, which had been in fine voice all game, exploded. There had been a nagging feeling that as the game wore on that the Portsmouth belief was getting stronger and the goal punished Spurs for not taking their earlier chances.
Minutes later Spurs appeared to equalise only for Referee Alan Wiley to award a foul on James instead from a Krankjar challenge. Spurs were getting no luck whatsoever and shortly after a decent shout for a penalty was given offside instead.. Deep into the second half of extra time the game was put beyond doubt when Dindane danced throught the Spurs defence and went down under a challenge from Wilson Palacios. Wiley pointed to the spot and Spurs fans fears were confirmed. Prince-Boateng, discarded by Spurs and Redknapp, stepped up and drove his penalty low past Gomez to exact revenge.
Only two weeks ago Tottenham seemed on track for their most succesful season in decades, but it all seems to be coming unravelled at the business
end. Spurs fans will point to refereeing decisions, when really they can only blame themselves for not taking their chances.
Avram Grant has worked miracles in keeping this threadbare squad of cast-offs and loanees focused and full of belief, when throwing in the
towel might have been an easier option.
Pompey prove that there is indeed life after Redknapp and are only one win from matching that fine day two years ago. However this time, they will have done it without the massive wages and transfer fees. It will also taste a hell of a lot sweeter too….