Date: 29th October 2008 at 9:54pm
Written by:

Liverpool v Portsmouth Match Report

Tony Adams was involved in his first Premiership game as a manager, however it’s not the easiest of starts as his Portsmouth side are away to Liverpool at Anfield. For Portsmouth fans the past few days have been a real rollercoaster ride – however things on the South Coast are now settling down, and Portsmouth fans are a lot happier now that Adams is in charge.

Portsmouth went into this game as underdogs, having not won at Anfield since 1951, and things were made even tougher by the fact that Liverpool currently sit top of the league, and were brimming with confidence following last week’s famous 1-0 victory at Chelsea. Further, Pompey’s last six league visits to Anfield have only seen them score two goals. Things couldn’t have been tougher for Tony Adams, but could he get a result for his first game in charge?

Adams surprisingly left Defoe out of the starting line up, opting for the 4-5-1, with our back four being Pamarot, Kaboul, Distin and Belhadj, as Campbell and Johnson were out injured. Our five-man midfield consisted of Traore, Diarra, Davis, Diop and surprisingly John Utaka. Peter Crouch played as a lone striker, indicating that Pompey were using him as a target-man in what seems to be a defensive style of play. 43,378 people crammed into Anfield to see this exciting encounter.

Portsmouth began the game shooting towards the Kop end, and Liverpool began pressing early – forcing Portsmouth to concede corners left right and centre in the opening five minutes. Gerrard started brightly, running our defence ragged. After 9 Minutes Pompey’s luck almost runs out as Dirk Kuyt hits the post. Jermaine Pennant played a lovely ball down to Arbeloa who managed to pick out Kuyt. His shot was expertly saved by ex-Liverpool man David James. What a fantastic save – saved some blushes. Nadir Belhadj eventually got the ball away.

At the 15 minute mark Gerrard beat offside trap from another pinpoint Jermaine Pennant ball and played it across to Kuyt. Kuyt held back slightly, expecting the cut-back and so missed Gerrard’s cross. That was a massive let-off for Pompey, because on another day it could’ve been a completely different story. Two minutes later Gerrard was caught on the edge of area by Traore in a challenge that didn’t look intentional. Gerrard’s free kick hit the wall. Another Pompey let-off, as we all know how dangerous Gerrard can be from 2 yards out of the area.

Attention for Pompey fans briefly turns to the Emirates as Harry Redknapp’s Spurs take the lead at the Emirates over their rivals Arsenal. Back at Anfield however, Pompey are still under pressure. Babel broke free down the left after 20 minutes, and crossed the ball but the advantage of numbers gets the better of this Liverpool attack as Diop gets the ball away. Possession is yet again given away by Pompey, but Diarra with a great tackle on Xabi Alonso to save the blushes.

Liverpool were applying increasing pressure but Pompey were defending well. Pompey fans everywhere were starting to wonder whether or not we would be able to keep a clean sheet at Anfield, although some respite could be taken by the fact that Liverpool have only been leading at Anfield this season for a total of 18 minutes. Pompey looked like they weren’t going to mount a serious attack due to the fact once a ball is played to Crouch, there aren’t many options open to him. Pennant was looking dangerous, and was orchestrating most of the Liverpool attacks.

After 23 minutes Diarra’s freekick into the Liverpool box was drilled towards Kaboul who headed it wide. This positive movement from the Blues was the catalyst that inspired them to play patient football. Two minutes later Diarra plucked the ball out of mid-air in what can only be described as a tremendously skilful move. The ball was played towards Utaka who went past Aurelio and found Diop, who crossed the ball to Crouch who picked it up near the Liverpool byline. Crouch passed the ball to Davis on the edge of the area, whose cross found Diop who directed a header directly to Pepe Reina. A fantastic chance for Pompey to go ahead at Anfield. Portsmouth were certainly improving and you can’t fault Portsmouth’s defensive play.

Liverpool then had a freekick ten yards outside of area, which Gerrard hit low against the wall again. The ball rebounded to Carragher who showed Gerrard how to put a shot on target, as his shot sailed through a sea of blue shirts into David James’ hands. A few minutes later, and the play moved to the other end. A Diarra freekick to Crouch at far post was wasted – a real missed opportunity, but showed that Pompey are growing, and beginning to make a mark in this game.

On the 35 minute mark Babel went down injured which introduced a small break in play whilst he was being treated on the byline. This break allowed Liverpool to regroup, and a few minutes later the dangerous Gerrard found Dirk Kuyt who hit the side netting – half the Liverpool fans thought it had gone in. Just before halftime, Liverpool had a corner as a result of a Gerrard attack that was deflected out by Distin. The corner was taken short and quick and Arbeloa shot just wide after the Pompey players were caught by surprise by the short, quick corner.


The second half began quietly with little event. After 52 minutes Diarra tackled Gerrard and brought him down with a fantastic tackle, however the referee took a different view and booked the Pompey midfield maestro. The lull in play allowed news to trickle through that Arsenal were now winning 2-1, and now finally things seem to be going Portsmouth’s way. Not only is Redknapp losing, but Pompey are playing very very well defensively, forever frustrating the Liverpool strikers.

After 56 minutes history repeated itself as Gerrard crossed the across goal to Kuyt again, but Kuyt missed and Pompey got away with it. Five minutes later, Distin forced a corner after stopping Gerrard. Gerrard whipped the ball into the near post, and Kuyt got a head to it but missed by literally inches. Kuyt looks incredibly dangerous, and is not too far away from scoring a goal himself.

Benayoun came on for Pennant after 60 minutes, as Pompey play very well defensively. Almost immediately, Niko Kranjcar replaces Armand Traore on the left, which shows that Adams is going for a more attacking option in Niko. Five minutes later, Gerrard again beats the offside trap, however his first touch took it too far and it was a wasted opportunity from a Red point of view.

The deadlock was finally broken on the 76th minute mark. Diop has some explaining to do as he used both hands to punch the ball away from an advancing Hyypia in the Pompey area. Only the Lords knows what he was doing, as Pompey were playing so well defensively keeping Liverpool at bay. Diop was booked for his troubles, and Gerrard slotted away the resultant penalty in the bottom right hand corner. Diop must take 100% of the blame there.

Five minutes later and Pompey make what appears to be a confusing substitution. Diarra, who was quite frankly inspiring in the Pompey midfield, is being taken off for Richard Hughes. Diarra had aggravated a niggling injury and so his night has ended early unfortunately. From here on in it was Portsmouth’s night, as they started to pile the pressure on Liverpool. Just after the 80 minute mark, Kranjcar attacked with a ball to Belhadj who crossed the ball into an unmarked Utaka. Utaka completely missed the ball, and his attempt had all the makings of an unconfident striker.

Utaka finally made way way for Defoe, with five minutes to spare. Some Pompey fans would comment that this was too late, as Defoe has been outstanding so far for Portsmouth this season. The final five minutes were uneventful, other than Defoe going down in the box, but the referee Steve Tanner waved away Defoe’s claims. Three minutes of time were added on, as Keane came on for the outstanding Gerrard in injury time. Keane had one chance late on, but James was quicker to the ball. Pompey’s disappointment was further compounded by jammy Redknapp who’s side fought back from 4-2 down to draw 4-4 against Arsenal.

As the final whistle went, the 1-0 result was obviously harsh on Portsmouth, who defensively were very well placed to at least earn a point. The Liverpool attack were at them all the time, and the Pompey defence, although under the cosh, were impressive and dealt with everything that was thrown at them. Diop’s completely unprovoked handball was the only difference between the two teams, and quite frankly I hope Adams gives him the hairdryer treatment!

My star man, other than Gerrard of course, was Lassana Diarra. Yet again, he showed that he is absolutely world class, and I only hope that his injury was only minor and that he’ll be back at the weekend for the Wigan game – we certainly need him. Also I think Adams got the tactics spot on other than the fact that Defoe was brought on a bit later than I expected. The 4-5-1 is a defensive formation, and it kept the league leaders at bay, however I feel that as we were piling on the pressure the earlier introduction of Defoe would maybe have got us an equaliser.


Written by PFCGino.

Join the Vital Pompey Debate