Liverpool slipped off the top after being held to a goalless draw at Fratton, but if Kanu had succeeded where Taylor normally does, it could have been oh so different.
Papa Diop made his debut in the centre of midfield, with Utaka switching wings to accomodate Benjani on the right, this was to ensure a 5 man midfield obviously to squeeze Liverpool out. Kanu played the lone role up front with Campbell stepping in at the back at the expense of Pamarot.
For Liverpool it was a start for Crouch upfront, Torres and Gerrard had to be content with spots on the bench along with Ryan Babel.
Jamie Carragher returned after a broken rib, and Finnan shook off a light knock to take his place in defence.
The match got off to a slowish start with both defenses cancelling each other out, Yossi Benayoun had the first effort at goal, forcing a smart save out of James at his near post.
Both teams played the ball around, although Pompey, Muntari in particular were guilty of giving the ball away cheaply, the game resembled a base-line tennis slog, with both teams building from the back and getting repelled anywhere the other goal.
Pompey’s first real effort on goal arrived with a strike from Benjani,slipping in from his wide role and striking with power only to see his effort first deflected and the turned wide by Reina.
Liverpool were being reduced to shooting from outside the area, mainly from free-kicks after Sissoko resembled Bambi on ice anytime he came anywhere near the Pompey area, Pompey’s wall did the job on each occasion though, although Mike Riley wasn’t gaining any fans with his willingness to blow his whistle everytime the big Mali man did his shot soldier routine.
Minutes before halftime came the turning point of the match, Kanu was held in the box, the linesmans flag went across his chest, and Pompey had a golden opportunity to take the lead, much to Liverpool’s, Carragher and Alonso’s in particular disgust. The ball was placed on the spot, and Kanu who missed so miserably last season against Blackburn, did much the same, after leaving a neon light in the goalmouth to show Reina exactly where he would put it.
The game was now alive though, passions were raised and blood was flowing, tackles flew in, but no goal was threatened.
Liverpool threatened first again, Crouch flicking a shot over the bar after nipping in blindside of Hreidarsson.
The neutrals watching on Sky would no doubt being waiting for the red machine to go up a gear and romp home, it was Pompey however who created the better chances, Utaka firing wide with the whole goal in fron of him, and Muntari, who had upped his game second half, doing likewise, seeming to miskick after Kanu’s set-up.
Gerrard and Torres came on, Babel not far behind as Benitez went for the points, but apart from one chamce for Torres, which he skied, the match could have gone either way, Liverpool had the greater goal threat, but Pompey, the better chances.
In Summary a draw was probably about right, but I along with many others left my seat dissapointed at not winning, a penalty should have been enough to clinch it, but when Kanu put the ball on the spot, I looked for Taylor, Kranjcar, anyone, not Kanu to hit it, but it was not to be, we played the top four and gained 2 points, both at home. The gulf to the top sides is there for all to see, but we are edging closer.
No real scares, did what had to be done
Sacrificed his attacking instinct to turn in a sterling defensive performance, only a late slip with Torres blotting his card.
Best Pompey performance by far, he even had an attacking threat about him.
Cultured as ever, only seemed slightly ruffled when Torres came on.
Our Captain, our rock.
Looked a shadow on the left, went to ground a bit easily and missed a glorious chance, but looked like his old self after Kranjcar’s arrival allowed him to switch flanks.
Worked seflessly again, one good strike.
Man mountain and midfield general.
Awful first half, much improved second.
The bloke runs a marathon every match, won countless tackles, but his tendency to be crablike in his passin,g seems to cloud many a fans vision of him.
Crap penalty, otherwise the usual close control and lovely passes, to be fair was harshly treated by Riley after the penalty award, could easily have won another.
Made little impact.
Redknapp will be gutted at just a point really, but you know he will point out this was Liverpool and we are little Pompey.
Benitez may have underestimated us a bit with his decision to place Gerrard and Torres on the bench, they looked a lot better with them.