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Barclays Premier League

Fratton Park (ATT 20,534) 19th December 2009 - Kick off 12:45 Ref: L Mason

Portsmth Portsmouth vs Liverpool Liverpool

Portsmth 2

N Belhadj (33)
F Piquionne (82)


Liverpool 0

J Mascherano (S/O 45)

Reds slump on the coast

Pompey claim successive home wins as Liverpool fall to seventh league defeat

Last Updated: 19/12/09 5:33pm

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Piquionne celebrates scoring Pompey's second

Piquionne celebrates scoring Pompey's second

Liverpool found precious little festive cheer on the South Coast in slumping to a seventh league defeat as Portsmouth were dominant in claiming a 2-0 victory.

Man of the match: Frederic Piquionne was an industrious and willing worker all afternoon and fully deserved his second half strike. Goal of the match: Piquionne's second fine volley in as many games just about pips Nadir Belhadj's lashed finish past Jose Reina. Moment of the match: Javier Mascherano's red card. Liverpool were already trailing when the Argentine received his marching orders, but would the scoreline have been different had Liverpool kept their full complement? Talking point: Is Rafa Benitez still the right man to lead Liverpool in light of a seventh league defeat of the season?

Rafa Benitez's side travelled to the Premier League's bottom club on the back of a midweek win but experienced that familiar losing feeling as goals in either half from Nadir Belhadj and Frederic Piquionne did the damage.

A miserable day for Liverpool and Benitez was exacerbated by a red card dished out to Javier Mascherano before half-time for a reckless challenge on Tal Ben Haim. Had Liverpool played with 12, though, they would still have lost.

Portsmouth were aggressive from the onset and while chances were at a premium in the opening period few would begrudge their opener, a stunning angled strike from Belhadj after 33 minutes that whistled past Jose Reina.

Liverpool's search for an equaliser was largely restricted to a deflected Steven Gerrard effort that Asmir Begovic clawed off the line, before Piquionne added a sumptuous second on the volley after the break.

Rafa hoodoo

Portsmouth's win means Avram Grant maintains his unbeaten record against Benitez after recording two wins and two draws during his time at Chelsea in the 2008 season.

Back then he ended the Spaniard's Champions League hopes at the semi-final stage - this time he has dented their chances of even qualifying for the competition.

In truth, both sides needed time to find their footing in a game played under tricky conditions. The match was able to go ahead due to the pitch being covered during the week, although there were traces of snow on the shaded areas of the turf meaning passing was sometimes hindered.

Benitez was boosted by the return of Fernando Torres after the Spain striker rested his troublesome groin in the midweek win over Wigan - but he was limited to half-chances.

Torres had a sight of goal early on but Hermann Hreidarsson was back in time - his sliced clearance could have gone anywhere but ended up in Begovic's hands.

Torres then got closer midway through the half after collecting a pass from Andrea Dossena and curling just over the bar, then he was inches from Gerrard's cross.

Dossena's selection was a curious decision, especially with Yossi Benayoun relegated to the bench and Ryan Babel back after an ankle complaint.

And any plans Benitez had of his changes ensuring a simple victory were blown away just after the half-hour mark when Pompey took the lead.

Belhadj started the move himself by nutmegging Emiliano Insua to set up the attack. When the ball was cleared, Kevin-Prince Boateng forced Reina into a save with a powerful volley, former Pompey full-back Glen Johnson cleared the ball only as far as Belhadj and the Algerian lashed in at the near post.

Belhadj has been out of favour under Grant, this was his first game since October and resulted in his first goal of the campaign.

Daniel Agger should have levelled before the break. Gerrard's free-kick found him unmarked but the centre-back headed over from close range.

Key moment

To make matters worse, then came Mascherano's dismissal. The Argentina midfielder recklessly crashed into Ben Haim, although his feet did not leave the ground. Nevertheless, Mason consulted the fourth official before giving a straight red card.

It was a decision that infuriated Benitez, who had chants of "you're getting sacked in the morning" aimed at him from home fans.

Benitez made his move eight minutes after the break, introducing Benayoun for Dossena to the delight of Liverpool fans.

Michael Brown made himself busy in midfield, winding up his opponents. When Torres snapped and fouled the Pompey skipper it earned the striker a yellow card, then the striker may have been fortunate to stay on the pitch when he led with his arm in a challenge on Ben Haim.

Johnson also earned a booking for tripping Jamie O'Hara when the on-loan Tottenham midfielder robbed him deep in Liverpool territory.

Begovic needed to be at his sharpest to deny Gerrard after the England midfielder's shot struck Brown and Hreidarsson. The Pompey goalkeeper was falling the wrong way but managed to palm the ball away.

Piquionne doubled the lead with eight minutes remaining, latching onto Boateng's cross, spinning around Carragher and finishing crisply.

PortsmouthTeam StatisticsLiverpool
11st Half Goals0
3Shots on Target1
7Shots off Target5
5Blocked Shots3
2Yellow Cards3
0Red Cards1
73.8Passing Success74.9
84.8Tackles Success77.3
52.8Territorial Advantage47.2

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Barclays Premier League

Barclays Premier League
Pos Team P Pts
1 Chelsea 38 87
2 Manchester City 38 79
3 Arsenal 38 75
4 Manchester United 38 70
5 Tottenham Hotspur 38 64
6 Liverpool 38 62
7 Southampton 38 60
8 Swansea City 38 56
9 Stoke City 38 54
10 Crystal Palace 38 48
11 Everton 38 47
12 West Ham United 38 47
13 West Bromwich Albion 38 44
14 Leicester City 38 41
15 Newcastle United 38 39
16 Sunderland 38 38
17 Aston Villa 38 38
18 Hull City 38 35
19 Burnley 38 33
20 Queens Park Rangers 38 30