Pompey fell to a ‘fluke’ Bobby Zamora goal yesterday, as Fulham ran out 1-0 winners at Fratton Park.
Zamora, a recent subject of a £5m bid from Hull City, knew little when Clint Dempsey’s long-range effort clipped off his hip, deflecting into the bottom-left-hand-corner of David James’ net.
The goal came as a blow to Paul Hart’s men, as the Blues were previously enjoying good spells of football.
Debutant Frederic Piquionne proved to be quite a handful for the Fulham defence, heading tamely wide from Nadir Belhadj’s cross early on.
Midfielder Hayden Mullins, whom received much criticism towards the end of the previous season, battled well for Pompey, even going forward at times to support teammate Nadir Belhadj.
Despite Portsmouth’s obvious attacking threat, they lacked the clinical finish that was left to be desired.
Fulham made the Blues pay with Zamora’s ‘goal’, and Zamora was unlucky not to double his goal tally, as he saw his header tipped over by England international, David James.
With the first half coming to an end, an interesting incident occurred in Portsmouth’s half, with the ball seeming to go out of play for a goal-kick, an over-eager ball-boy ran onto the pitch, passing the ball back to ‘keeper David James.
The ball-boy was then embarrassed by referee Martin Atkinson, as the official ‘had to’ blow for a drop-ball situation. Fulham forward Bobby Zamora was happy to pass the ball back to James however, receiving an applause from the Fratton faithful.
When attacking, Portsmouth looked predictable and at times, out of ideas. The home fans were calling Paul Hart to ring the changes, but it was only with 15 minutes left did Paul Hart substitute midfielder Papa Bouba Diop for ‘King’ Kanu.
Just before that, Pompey were struggling to force a save from Fulham ‘keeper, Mark Schwarzer. Niko Kranjcar and Younes Kaboul were both guilty of firing a few yards over.
It summed up an average performance for the Croat. At times he looked unfit and even uninterested. 50/50 challenges seemed a constant problem for the midfielder, whose contract is set to run out at the end of the season.
If Kranjcar’s performance was average, Nigerian forward John Utaka had a game to forget. The former Rennes star was often seen pushed off the ball too easily, while at teams failing to show effort in running for the ball.
Chris Kamara, covering the games for Soccer Saturday, was said at times to be speechless, failing to find words to summarise Portsmouth’s performance.
After a defensive error by defender Marc Wilson, Fulham forward Andy Johnson had a delightful opportunity to double the Whites’ lead. With the goal gaping, the unmarked forward somehow shot wide.
It was the only error of what otherwise was a fantastic performance by Marc Wilson. For a player who has had little Premier League experience, Wilson looked assured, confident on the ball and unlike some other players at the club, was prepared to pass the ball forward.
After Wilson’s one mistake, he was switched to right-back, allowing Younes Kaboul to form a central-partnership with captain Sylvain Distin.
With Kanu offering little change in Pompey’s attack, manager Paul Hart finally substituted Nigerian John Utaka for controversial forward David Nugent, receiving an ironic cheer from large parts of the ground.
The introduction of Nugent was seen as too late; the forward did however have a chance to level the scores, only to see his effort fly into the top rows of the new ‘Jobsite’ stand, from only eight-yards-out.
Despite 200,000 turning up at Southsea Common, in May 2008, to see Portsmouth bring home the F.A. Cup, a meagre 17,000 were there to watch the Blues.
It seems a summer of negativity, and the departure of stars such as Peter Crouch and Glen Johnson has been enough to convince ‘former fans’ not to turn up.
One person who did show yesterday was new club chairman, Sulaiman Al Fahim. Sporting a white jacket, his arrival was low-key and no doubt yesterday’s performance was a wake-up call for the Arab businessman.
Al Fahim visited to show his ‘commitment to the deal’. Portsmouth fans will be happier to see him next time when the deal is completed. At the moment, his promises are nothing more than ‘empty’.
Portsmouth did not deserve to lose yesterday, with a lot of positives to take from the game. However, manager Paul Hart would have identified key areas where the team could improve, particularly shooting.
Man of the match – Hayden Mullins.
Mullins had a difficult spell towards the end of last season, failing to live up to the playing standards of Lassana Diarra, while becoming the scapegoat in Hart’s decision to leave out Greek midfielder, Angelos Basinas.
However, after yesterday’s performance, the former West Ham midfielder won over many fans for his battling display and his newfound accuracy when passing. He broke down a number of Fulham attacks and even did well when going forward on occasions.
Utaka (Nugent 87)
Diop (Kanu 76)
Subs: Begovic, Ward, Hughes, Ritchie, Basinas, Nugent, Kanu.
Gera (Ki-Hyeon 88)
Zamora (Nevland 80)
Subs: Zuberbuhler, Kelly, Baird, Ki-Hyeon, Riise, Nevland, Kamara.
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