Tottenham v Pompey. Two of arguably the most inconsistent teams in the Premier League met in the impressive arena of White Hart Lane on Saturday to produce a firecracker of a match, only decided by Gus Poyet’s late winner 2 minutes from time.
For both teams, this was crucial game. Spurs needed to bounce back after a crushing exit from the FA Cup in midweek, whilst Pompey desperately need points to steer them away from the dreaded bottom three.
As a result, everyone was fired up, especially the marvellous Pompey fans, who were in excellent voice from the first to final whistle, no doubt encouraged by the sight of two new strikers on the bench in the shape of Tresor Lua Lua and Ivaca Mornar.
However, although not many people are in a position to question Harry Redknapp, his decision to leave in form Patrick Berger on the bench was puzzling, and as the match wore on, downright frustrating.
Tottenham, with new hitman Jermaine Defoe, started brightly, and won three corners in the first ten minutes. The pressure paid off and, with the Portsmouth defence all at sea, Defoe fired home from 18 yards to mark his debut in style.
Uncharacteristically, Portsmouth were unwilling to get stuck in and with Tottenham’s Stephen Dalmat bossing the midfield, they were struggling to feed any quality ball to Teddy and Yak. However, halfway through the first half the team woke up, and started to look dangerous. But the improved quality unfortunately highlighted the fact that Teddy Sheringham looks to have had it. He was slow, sluggish and was easily marked out the game, so it was no surprise that he was substituted at halftime. As a result, it was up to Yakubu to lead Pompey’s attack, and he rose to the task expertly, and, from a through ball, provided a cross that deflected off Eyal Bekovic’s head and into the net. They all count. Pompey were back level. The mass of travelling fans went absolutely mad.
For the second, and not for the last time, defence let Pompey down. Two minutes after the equaliser, man of the match Robbie Keane got away from usually reliable defender Linvoy Primus, and his beautiful turn and shot left Shaka Hislop with no chance.
Spurs went in at the break ahead but no one present was likely to forget Manchester City’s midweek comeback from three down.
The second half was one of the most entertaining yet heart wrenching periods of football many would have witnessed for a long time. Pompey were desperate to get something from the game, and after the interval introduced Mornar and debutant Lua Lua. The chances flowed for the visitors, and an inspired Kasey Keller kept out two excellent opportunities for Yakubu and Berkovic. Typical, speaking to a Spurs fan before the game I was bombarded with complaints of the American goalkeeper.
However, Pompey were rewarded on 70 minutes when the excellent Lua Lua won the ball against all the odds from Dean Richards in the air, and fired a breathtaking shot into the net to put Pompey on terms again.
Spurs re-took the lead 7 minutes later, and once again, took full advantage of Pompey’s awful defence, epitomised by the awful John Curtis. Unable to make a decisive challenge on the halfway line, he allowed Robbie Keane to run all the way into the penalty area, and, after a scramble, poke the ball over the line.
However, Pompey refused to lie down and rallied once more. Six minutes from time, Mornar looked to have grabbed a point for the visitors when he met Yakubu’s perfect low cross to make it 3-3.
A brilliant draw looked likely for Pompey at this stage, but their shaky defence meant it was going to be a nervous end to the game. And just when everyone seemed satisfied with a draw, poor marking from a Simon Davies corner allowed Poyet to fire home from six yards to break Pompey hearts. A sensational game, but Pompey must defend better than they did here in order to survive.