Portsmouth 2-1 Manchester United

April 8, 2007

Rio Ferdinand’s late own-goal completed a miserable day for Manchester United as Portsmouth’s shock win condemned them to a fourth Barclays Premiership defeat of the season and allowed Chelsea to cut their lead at the top to three points.

The thrilling clash was decided as Pompey saw Matt Taylor’s overhit pass to Lomana LuaLua in the 88th minute turned past the Dutch goalkeeper by Ferdinand’s intervention.

The home side were already leading 1-0 at that stage through Taylor’s 30th-minute strike after Edwin van der Sar was unable to hold Benjani Mwaruwari’s long-range effort.

John O’Shea’s late tap-in after Pompey keeper David James spilled a soft Ole Gunner Solskjaer shot gave United hope.

But the giant James regained hero status – after his mistake cost him a record 142nd Premier League clean sheet – by saving substitute Alan Smith’s shot right at the death.

It is the third time in four Premier League seasons that United have come a cropper at Fratton Park but they could not deny it was a fully deserved success for Harry Redknapp’s side.

On paper it looked a no contest with Pompey having won just one of their previous 11 league games and United arriving on the back of seven successive Barclays Premiership wins.

But Redknapp’s side had won two of their previous three encounters with the Red Devils at Fratton Park, although last season United collected a 3-1 success among a run of five successive wins against the south coast team.

United decided on a circumspect start against a Pompey team clearly up for the challenge.

Sean Davis twice fouled Paul Scholes in the first five minutes and the United midfielder was also caught late by Taylor.

Pompey’s early probes brought a half chance, with Kanu leaping to apply a twisting header to Taylor’s good ball into the box, but Van der Sar held on comfortably under the crossbar.

Djimi Traore, a late selection after Sol Campbell pulled out of the Portsmouth team despite taking part in the warm-up, briefly had to go off for treatment after a tackle by Darren Fletcher before Cristiano Ronaldo bounced a United free-kick from 30 yards tamely past a post.

The Portugal international was similarly off target a minute later after a mesmerising run from Wayne Rooney’s pass but it was a sign of United warming up.

On 16 minutes, Ronaldo darted between Linvoy Primus and Dejan Stefanovic but could not make contact with a dropping ball which ran clear towards Rooney 10 yards from goal.

Primus was quickly up and there first, stretching to toe the ball away before Rooney fell over his outstretched leg.

The England international inquired about a penalty but referee Mark Clattenburg saw that the Pompey defender had played the ball first.

Pompey went ahead on the half-hour when Kieran Richardson could not clear a ball that bounced up from Traore’s throw-in on the left and Benjani jumped in to drill an early drive that Van der Sar could only stand up and parry.

Taylor was quicker than Ferdinand to the rebound and tucked it neatly past the veteran goalkeeper.

Michael Carrick almost put United back on level terms immediately after Taylor’s strike, his low shot drifting just wide but then James – hunting his clean-sheet record – blocked Fletcher’s shot with his legs after Rooney played the midfielder through.

Primus, outstanding at the back for Pompey and defying his 33 years, even found time to go up for a corner and head Gary O’Neil’s delivery just over the bar.

And just before the start of first-half stoppage time Taylor turned the ball past Van der Sar again only to see it hacked clear.

Ferguson was concerned enough to send on Ryan Giggs for Richardson at the start of the second half, which meant 10 of the 11 who faced Roma last Wednesday in the Champions League, were on parade.

Solskjaer completed the full set when replacing Fletcher 15 minutes later and he seemed to inspire United to a purple patch that threatened to turn the game around.

James excelled, pushing away Ronaldo’s flick from a corner and Lauren backed him up to block Wes Brown’s follow-up.

It was all hands to the Pompey pump as Rooney set up Giggs to force James into another save and then the Wales international fired in a cracker to send James leaping for an immaculate tip-over.

When Rooney skated clear on 69 minutes, Primus timed his recovery tackle to perfection once again and the England striker’s protest to the referee cut no ice. Once more television evidence seemed to prove the defender’s timing was dead right to take the ball first.

Ronaldo scuffed a chance wide as United’s frustration grew but Pompey were still in it as an attacking force, Kanu’s long-ranger stinging Van der Sar’s palms before the keeper made an excellent save, diving to push away Davis’ goalbound shot.

Ferdinand inadvertently sealed it with his own-goal two minutes from the end.

James’ error handed O’Shea what was no more than a consolation thanks to the former England keeper’s late save from Smith.

E.Van der Sar

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