Crouch Seals UEFA Cup Passage
Pompey's debut trip abroad for a competitive fixture will live long in the memories of the fans who travelled to Portugal. I bumped into Neville Dalton at the airport and so we both stuck together and spent the majority of the day in the beautiful city of Porto.
You wouldn't have thought it was October over there because the weather was hotter than any day the English summer brought us this year. That added to the superb atmosphere for the build up to the match as Pompey fans had taken over the city square and the riveria.
That wasn't a problem for the hospitable Portuguese who seemed to enjoy having us stay and I don't think I'll ever forget the moment when a big group of students working for charity started joining in the Pompey songs including "Play Up Pompey!", "One Pedro Mendes" and "Stand up if you hate the scum!"
After spending time soaking up the sun on the Portuguese riviera it was time to make our way to Guimaraes and the Estadio D. Afonso Henriques where I met up with Luis Fernandes, editor of Vitoria Grande and we had a good chat about the upcoming match and football in general.
The stadium may have been renovated but it is very cramped in there as the seats have just been bolted onto concrete steps and so doesn't allow for much legroom. Pompey fans had taken up the entire upper tier of the away end to create a carnival atmosphere that was added to by the Vitoria fans in the home stands.
Harry set out the team in a 3-5-2 formation as the game began with the plan not to concede an early goal. That plan was ripped to shreds after Douglas struck in the opener after some confusion between Distin and Campbell and it got worse after Joao Alves' free kick soon after took a deflection and rolled past the static David James.
Pompey fans were stunned as the team had let a two goal lead slip whilst the Guimaraes fans bounced as their team searched for a third. I was beginning to fear another trouncing but thankfully Pompey managed to hold on in what was an abysmal first half for the Blues.
I don't know what Harry and co. said to the lads at half time but whatever it was it worked as Pompey looked a completely different team. The passes were finding players in blue shirts and we carried a lot more threat down the wings but couldn't find that killer ball.
It was a frustrating half for both sets of fans because Armand Traore kept losing the ball in advanced positions whilst Lassana Diarra probably had his worst game in a Pompey shirt by trying to do too much. From Vitoria's point of view they looked worried as their side were cowering in their own half and barely created an attack.
It was inevitable that the game would go to extra time and I prayed that we would finish the tie there and then as I didn't fancy our chances in a penalty shootout.
David James produced a fine save to stop Joao Alves from breaking Pompey hearts and in the second period of extra time the home fans roared as they thought they had scored only for the offside flag to deny them.
Pompey fans began chanting "sit down, shut up!" as the Guimaraes celebrations were cut short but moments later the chants turned into delirium as Peter Crouch nodded in Glen Johnson's cross to give Pompey that much coveted away goal.
Crouch then made sure Pompey's European tour would continue after Belhadj played him in and the lanky striker rifled a shot into the roof of the net. Guimaraes had to score three in what little time they had and despite trying to pull one back the final whistle blew and the Pompey party began as Thursday night turned to Friday morning.
What a feeling that was! What a day! For those of you who stayed at home and felt jealous you had every right to be because it was a unique and unforgettable experience for those who made the journey. It was tiring but well worth it and now we can look forward to another four European games in the group stage.
I would also like to wish the fans of Vitoria Guimaraes all the best for being very welcoming and friendly. I have heard no reports of trouble, which is excellent and hopefully it stays that way all season.
Who knows what awaits us in the group stages? Perhaps the giants of European football such as Valencia or AC Milan could visit Portsmouth but on the flip side we could be looking at a mega long trip to Moscow or a very unattractive visit to Galatasaray.
Whatever the draw brings, it is sure to be exciting!
Pompey Player Ratings
David James: 7 - A couple of excellent saves.
Glen Johnson: 8 - Top performance and great cross for Crouch's header.
Sol Campbell: 6 - Steady after the first half.
Sylvain Distin: 6 - Made up for his mistake by being calm and assured at the back.
Noe Pamarot: 6 - Did the job.
Armand Traore: 6 - A constant threat but frustrating end product.
Sean Davis: 6 - Ran everywhere.
Richard Hughes: 6 - Gave 100% as usual.
Lassana Diarra: 6 - Worst game in a Pompey shirt so far.
Jermain Defoe: 6 - Lashed one shot into the side netting.
Peter Crouch: 8 - Grabbed those two all-important goals in extra time.
Younes Kaboul (Defoe 106): N/A - Late sub to close the game.
Nadir Belhadj (Hughes 99): 6 - Offered another dimension.
Arnold Mvuemba (Davis 73): 6 - Some good passing.