The Independent London Newspaper
22nd October 2018

FA CUP EYEWITNESS: Dan Carrier's view on Tottenham Hotspur 0 Portsmouth 2



    at WEMBLEY

    WATCHING David James, in his lurid pink goalie top, jig about in front of a bank of ecstatic Portsmouth fans was not in the script.
    But in a season where football has wormed its way off the back pages and into the finance columns, who can begrudge the veteran keeper such a hurrah, after his make shift Pompey team conjured the most unlikely of victories against Spurs in the FA Cup today?

    This term, financial shenanigans at Portsmouth, Manchester United and Liverpool have made headlines. But the economic storm that has battered the south coast side also provided the perfect back story - who would have thought that a team, relegated 24 hours earlier and whose purse strings are held by an administrator, would find the tenacity in their tank to withstand  the stress of a semi, and come out the other side with a return ticket to Wembley booked? Portsmouth‘s victory was merited, for one reason: while Spurs dominated, and had a perfectly good and potentially game changing equaliser ruled out, this is the cup and the Pompey cup journey is simply more romantic than ours.

    There can’t be a neutral in the land who didn’t smile when their first went in, a Frederic Piquionne extra time toe poke from close range after the otherwise steady Michael Dawson got his studs caught in the turf. Moments after, Peter Crouch levelled things, only for the referee to blow up for a seemingly innocuous encounter between Niko Kranjcar and James. For every one not Spurs, this refereeing error must have been sweet.

    Then, as the clock ticked down, Kevin Prince Boetang finished the proceedings with a thumping penalty in front of the jubilant Portsmouth fans. In a season of such lows, the sweetness of watching the ball hit the back of the net and confirm this victory must have been sugary indeed. Spurs can have no real complaints. Harry Redknapp chose a strong team, but from the off there was a nervousness about them, as if they knew the footballing gods wanted an excuse to dump them out. Spurs dominated for long periods - Modric, Bentley, Defoe and Crouch all forcing James into first half saves, while in the second period further chances were carved out, the pick of the bunch being a tee-up by Gareth Bale for a gaggle of on rushing Spurs players, with all of them missing it’s on-a-plate gyrectory by inches.

    The injury list excuses had a part to play:  Harry opted to field a team whose crucial components - centre back, centre mid, and up front - featured half-fit players and they visibly tied as things progressed. However, it would be doing Avram Grant and his relegated team a disservice to say they do not deserve to be facing Chelsea in four weeks time.

    For Pompey, it has been a season of lurching from one disaster to another: from repeated failures to pay their players to last gasp one-nil autumnal defeats that has meant 2009/10 would have been remembered for the experience of being bottom of the pile and not much else. Until today, that is.
    The grand old competition has been kind to us over the years, and it seems fitting that the apparent under dogs should pull such a result out of the hat. Who said the magic of the cup is dead?



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