Portsmouth 1 Manchester United 0

Last updated : 17 April 2004 By Footymad Previewer

Portsmouth's fight against Premiership relegation received a massive boost when they surprisingly defeated a weakened Manchester United at Fratton Park.

United went into the match without key players Ruud van Nistelrooy, Roy Keane and Phil Neville while Rio Ferdinand was reduced to a role as a television commentator.

But these were only excuses because gutsy Portsmouth fought hard for every ball and, despite having far less of the possession, held on for their tenth win of the season.

Steve Stone celebrated his 400th league appearance with the only goal of the match in the 37th minute after an uncharacteristic blunder by England full-back Gary Neville.

Manchester United, for all their injury problems and with one eye on next month's FA Cup final, failed to show their superiority and created little after the break.

United started brightly enough with Louis Saha heading just over from a centre by John O'Shea before Neville began his miserable afternoon by collecting a booking for a foul on Yakubu.

Shaka Hislop was a reassuring figure in goal for Pompey, making some important stops when it mattered most to a side that was often beleaguered.

Hislop was in the right place after 26 minutes to prevent Ole Gunnar Solskjaer finishing off a pass from Paul Scholes while Portsmouth had little option but to defend in depth.

It was a rare venture into United territory which led to the only goal in the 37th minute.

Lomana LuaLua got down the right and, as Wes Brown and Stone contested at the near post, the ball ran across the face of the goal to Neville who inexplicably passed it back again to the grateful Stone who lashed in a shot from six yards.

United's reply was instant with Hislop arching backwards to turn over a header from Saha and then O'Shea, venturing forward from right back, shot at Hislop from a centre by revenge-seeking Neville.

But Portsmouth could have been two goals ahead as the interval approached only for Yakubu to carelessly volley over from the edge of the area after a header from LuaLua had found him with room and time to spare.

In first-half stoppage time Hislop dived to his left to turn a shot from Solskjaer just past the post as United sought parity.

At the start of the second half Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp sent on Nigel Quashie in place of Eyal Berkovic in a tactical move designed to stifle the United threat and the move paid off almost instantly as Yakubu shot across the face of the goal four minutes later.

There was another fright for United two minutes after that when LuaLua set off on a pacy run from deep in his own half only to shoot at Roy Carroll.

There were appeals almost immediately for a penalty when Mikael Silvestre appeared to fall on the ball in his own area as United became more desperate in their attempt to equalise.

Sir Alex Ferguson sent on Cristiano Ronaldo in the 58th minute in place of Eric Djemba-Djemba and Portsmouth spent much of the last half an hour penned deep in their own half fending off United attacks.

Solskjaer shot at Hislop, Scholes had a shot blocked in the area before Ferguson sent on Darren Fletcher to increase his attacking options.

Former United favourite Teddy Sheringham came on in the 79th minute but his only major contribution in what was left of the match was to earn a yellow card for a foul, followed soon afterwards by Matt Taylor for a clumsy challenge on Ronaldo.

As the match drifted into injury time, of which there were four minutes, Saha rose to meet a corner from Ronaldo but headed wide when a goal looked certain and then Ronaldo bent a free-kick narrowly wide with Hislop for once struggling to cover his line.

Pompey responded with Yakubu shooting against the legs of Carroll but as United threw every man forward, there was no respite and the crowd went wild when the referee signalled the end of the match as United slumped to their seventh defeat of the season.

After the game Ferguson said: "We had a tremendous amount of possession and my players put a big effort in and worked their socks off.

"Once Portsmouth scored I knew it was going to be difficult to get back into the game.

"All our best chances were in the first half at a time when we played our best football.

"We got frustrated in the second half because all our long passes into their area were being headed away.

"We should have showed more composure and made use of our possession.

"The goal looked scrappy and nobody cleared our lines so that the chance fell nicely to Stone.

"His goal was a great boost for Portsmouth and they fought for every ball and gave us a really frustrating afternoon.

"There was a suggestion there might have been handball on the Portsmouth line but I have got 100 per cent respect for Mr Barry as an official and it happened in a crowded area so it would have been hard to tell." Jubilant Portsmouth boss Redknapp was celebrating his first ever league win over Manchester United.

He said: "I thought that if we could get a point against United it would keep us going on our decent good run.

"It is not often you beat Manchester United. They are a special team and a special club.

"At the start of the season when you look at the fixtures you realise that against teams like Manchester United anything is a bonus.

"We defended for our lives and my two centre-halves, Arjan De Zeeuw and Dejan Stefanovic, were excellent.

"I knocked Manchester United out of the cup a couple of times in the past for Bournemouth and West Ham but I think that is the first time I have beaten them in the league.

"Leeds, who we play next, is still a big game for us but after this win we are in great shape.

"We have got a better goal difference than teams around us in the relegation area and it is pleasing to know our safety is in our own hands." MAN OF THE MATCH: Steve Stone – The former England man fought tenaciously in an unfamiliar position on the left and deserved his goal to mark his 400th appearance.