Late late show for Pompey
By Alex Dunn. Last Updated: 04/12/04 4:50pm
Portsmouth netted two goals in the final five minutes to record a hard fought 3-2 victory over West Brom at Fratton Park.
Goals from Arjan De Zeeuw and Tresor Lomana Lua Lua saw Portsmouth take maximum spoils from a contest that had looked to have earned Bryan Robson his first win since his Hawthorns homecoming.
From the onset there was a nervous energy that seemed to engulf all involved, which made for football characterized by endeavour but little style.
In midweek, Portsmouth slumped to a miserable Carling Cup exit to Watford and in the early stages, Harry Redknapp's resignation did its best to subdue Fratton Park's chimes.
West Brom were resilient in the tackle and in Jonathan Greening and Andy Johnson had a midfield pairing willing to snap at the normally influential Patrick Berger.
It was Greening that conjured the first opportunity of the contest when he fired wide, before Portsmouth were left to look pleadingly at the referee, after Matthew Taylor claimed he was felled in The Baggies' box.
With play waved on, a marauding David Unsworth picked up possession from the resulting scramble and rifled a thunderous strike that needed a desperate block to prevent an opener.
The game always looked likely to be decided on who made the fewest mistakes and predictably, the first duly arrived on 15 minutes, to put West Brom in the ascendancy.
Credit must go to Neil Clement, who impressed with runs on the overlap all afternoon, when he stormed down the left with an intent for goal.
Lashing the ball across the Portsmouth six yard box, Dejan Stefanovic intervened at the near post and inadvertently diverted the ball past Jamie Ashdown.
Portsmouth's response will have encouraged Velimir Zajec, who dictated from the dugout, as the home side fought manfully to find a leveller.
David Unsworth, later replaced with an injury, was close to registering with a glorious effort but his looping volley struck the top of Russell Hoult's bar and bounced over.
Another left-back - it was that kind of game - Clement, could have doubled West Brom's advantage but fired at the feet of Ashdown before Purse practiced the art of own goals but with no end product, as he narrowly headed past the post of Hoult's goal.
Within minutes and the dominating defender had clearly perfected the art when he stuck out a boot to divert Stefanovic's cross past his own goalkeeper, at the near post.
An animated Robson on the touchline saw his misery compounded by the fact minutes earlier, the lively Robert Earnshaw had bent a clever effort just past the post.
On the stroke of half time and the diminutive Welshman had restored the visitor's advantage, when he capitalised on a monumental piece of misunderstanding between Taylor and Ashdown.
Either looked capable of clearing but it was Ricardo Scimeca that stole possession, to role the path into the path of Earnshaw, who duly dispatched with the simplest of finishes.
The second period revolved around a pattern of Portsmouth pressure and West Brom counter attacks but it was always the home side that looked the more likely to find a breakthrough.
Still, it was Earnshaw that first went close when after a sharp turn made space, he fired over, before Amdy Faye looked destined to find a leveller until Johnson's crucial intervention.
Andy Griffin's darting run then took him beyond the West Brom backline but after rounding Hoult, his cross-shot hit Purse in the face and it looked as though pressure would not yield to a leveller.
Zajec called Eyal Berkovic from the bench and it was the veteran playmaker that transformed Portsmouth's fortunes, as they recorded their second successive league win since Redknapp's resignation.
With five minutes left on the clock his perfectly flighted free-kick found the head of Arjen De Zeeuw and for the second week running, Pompey's captain nodded home a crucial goal.
Berkovic had not finished and in the final minute, his vision exposed a static West Brom defence to play in Lua Lua - who lashed home with aplomb for the most unlikely of winners.
|Portsmouth||Team Name||West Bromwich Albion|
|6||Shots on target ( Inc Goals )||3|
|4||Shots off Target (inc woodwork)||6|
|15||Total Fouls Conceded||14|
Barclays Premier League
|4||West Ham United||16||28|
|14||West Bromwich Albion||16||17|
|18||Queens Park Rangers||16||14|