Date: 5th October 2008 at 6:03pm
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“Crouch and Defoe Show” sinks struggling Stoke

Portsmouth came into this game high in confidence, having rallied to an aggregate victory over Vitoria SC just 3 days before. Stoke had just played Liverpool and Chelsea, and were looking to lift themselves out of the relegation zone. Despite being the favourites, Portsmouth knew that ex-Southampton player Rory Delap would cause them countless problems with his long throw.

Delap was joined in the Stoke line-up by fellow former Southampton players Ricardo Fuller, Andy Griffin, and Danny Higginbotham. Another notable name in the Stoke line-up was Amdy Faye. The ex-Portsmouth player scored the winner for Charlton the last time that he took to the pitch at Fratton. Despite playing their seventh game in twenty-one days, Portsmouth only made two changes. Fit-again Papa Bouba Diop replaced the suspended Lassana Diarra, whilst Nadir Belhadj was picked ahead of Noe Pamarot, as Portsmouth reverted to the more familiar 4-4-2 formation.

Portsmouth started the brighter of the two sides, with Traore whipping in a testing cross before Papa Bouba Diop shot wide with his left foot. Jermain Defoe also went close after taking the ball excellently past several Stoke players. On six minutes Stoke proved that they were capable of winning scoring, with Rory Delap’s first throw of the game only just cleared after David James missed his punch.

Portsmouth pushed further forward, but were almost caught on the break as a hopeful clearance towards Ricardo Fuller was left by the offside striker, only for David Kitson to run on to it. The Portsmouth defence were slow off the mark, but luckily Kitson lifted his shot inches wide of the far post. Soon after, on-loan winger Armand Traore almost put Portsmouth ahead, his long range effort narrowly missed.

Rory Delap’s throws kept causing problems for Portsmouth, and on 21 minutes they almost took the lead through one. Delap delivered the ball a lot nearer to the goal, and Glen Johnson on the near post inexplicably moved out of the way, only for David James to claw the ball away from the goal line.

The Portsmouth strike force of Crouch and Defoe linked up well, with both forwards looking to make it into Fabio Capello’s England squad for the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers. And it wasn’t long before Portsmouth took the lead. Jermain Defoe showed nice control before crossing nicely on the turn for Peter Crouch to expertly finish in acrobatic style to put his side into the lead. It was truly a fantastic goal, and is meant to be referred to as the “Ferris Wheel”, not the overhead kick, according to the half time announcer.

The first half finished lively, with Kitson and Defoe going close for their respective sides, before Ricardo Fuller broke free of the Portsmouth defence, only to stumble as he took it round David James. Stoke fans had a right to appeal for a penalty, but it didn’t look like James got anywhere near the man or the ball.

Portsmouth may have felt relieved to go into the break in the lead, as Stoke had squandered several good chances to take the lead.

Stoke equalised only three minutes into the second half, with Ricardo Fuller first to react to a flick-on from yet another Rory Delap throw-in, to send the Stoke fans into a frenzy.

Pompey were not fazed, however, as Jermain Defoe found room outside the box only to see his right-footed piledriver cannon back off of the far post. Stoke obviously hadn’t learnt their lesson, as less than a minute later Defoe was yet again allowed room, and this time the England striker made no mistake in burying his low shot inside the near post, to score yet another Premiership goal.

From then on Stoke posed little threat, with Rory Delap being substituted along with Dave Kitson as Stoke looked to salvage a point from the game. Just before the hour mark Peter Crouch went close from a fine Traore interception, before narrowly heading wide from a free kick.

Traore and Belhadj continued to terrorise the Stoke defence, Traore twice shooting straight at the keeper when Defoe was free. The young Frenchman was eventually replaced by the Hermanator in stoppage time, but by then the game was all but over.

Star Player

Traore and Belhadj were yet again sublime down the wing, but Crouch was the key man today for me. He controlled the ball well, had great vision to begin attacks, made several key headers and took his goal fantastically well. In truth it wasn’t a great game, but everyone out there put in a good game with perhaps the exception of Diop, who came inside much too often and gave away too many free kicks.

A quick note on the referee. Finally we have found someone who let’s everything go for us, and yet penalises the other team for everything, even some things that never were! Kitson was completely taken out in the first half by Distin, and Hughes gave away what should have been a penalty late in the second half. Then again, Crouch was shoved over in their area around the hour mark. We can`t have every decision go our way!

The player’s have a well deserved two week wait (apart from our internationals!), before we make the trip to Villa Park, with the Portsmouth players trying to emulate last year’s amazing scoreline. Next up at Fratton is Fulham, although we could be seeing some European football at the Fortress before then. Look out for the UEFA Cup Group Stage draw at 11.00 on Tuesday!