Date: 13th January 2008 at 7:00pm
Written by:

One word can sum up Pompey today, Bleeerghh.
Okay not very imaginative but get my drift.
Today was supposed to be the day that we showed we could cope without the 4 absent Africans, the day that we showed Harry Redknapp what he would be missing if he had left us for the Geordies. Instead we showed that we miss the Africans very much and that we well might struggle without them.

First Half
Pompey actually started the brighter of the two teams, from a free-kick Hreidarsson kept the ball alive with a header back across the box, and Benjani could only put the ball agonisingly wide of Gordons far post.
Niko Kranjcar was next to test Gordon, but his powerful shot off of his weaker left foot flew straight at Gordon.
Sunderland were making chances of their own and Stokes headed a Jones cross over the bar when he should maybe have hit the target.
The turning point came in the 33rd minute, Jones and Campbell tussled for a ball, Campbell ran into treacle and Jones was left free to square for Richardson to finish from 10 yards out. Sol had commited the sin of not playing to the whistle when he thought he had earned a free kick, this left Jones free to the damage.
Pompey huffed and puffed but showed little in the way of real attacking nous, Nugent was isolated upfront and Benjani wasted out wide.
Just before half-time came the defining moment, Benjani tried a flick in midfield and the ball was lost, the ball was squared again to Richardson who outstripped Hreidarsson and placed beyond James’ right arm, 2-0 and effectively match over with 45 to play.

Second Half

Redknapp made no substitions but switched to a 4-4-2 formation, Benjani reverted to upfront and Kranjcar was given freedom to roam, obviously hoping he was the man with the keys to unlock a stoic Sunderland defence.
Pompey should have gained a foothold in the match when Benjani bustled through on the left, but instead of shooting himself, his unselfish ball across to Nugent lacked sufficient pace and was scrambled clear by a grateful defence.
On the hour Benjani again burst clear of on-loan Evans, but shot tamely straight at Gordon when you would have backed him to score. Seconds later and Richardson was a couple of inches from a hat-trick, his shot smacking off of James’ bar.
The introduction of Franck Songo’o for the first time in nearly 2 years was just really evidence of Pompeys lack of depth in their squad, chances never really represented themselves and Sunderland had a fairly easy ride to 3 much needed points.

In summary Pompey emphasised how weak the squad is, the ANC has snatched a few yes, but with Johnson and Davis both absent also, the reserves aren’t really of the same quality.

Player Ratings

James
Was beaten twice by good finishes from Richardson, but must feel let down from his normally solid defence.

Pamarot
Battled manfully but was found missing when Jones and Campbell fought for the first goal

Hreidarsson
His lack of pace was highlighted for Richardsons’ second, but to be fair he was far from Pompeys worst player, and spent more time trying to set up an attack rather than defend.

Campbell
Probably his worst game in a Pompey shirt, he was second best to Jones and was basically given the run around

Distin
Struggled to plug the gaps around him and gave the ball away more than usual

Kranjcar
Tried to unlock the defence, but had the wrong set of keys, one good shot but that was all

Mvuemba
Has begged for a chance and fought manfully, but you can see why Muntari and Dipp get in in front of him

Hughes
You know what you get from Hughes, he is all about work rate and little shovelled passes, but when you need a defence splitting pass he is not the man. One air shot will be replayed on Soccer AM no doubt

Mendes
Where oh where is the Mendes of last season? He wasn’t the worst of Pompeys midfield, but his radar is broken in terms of shooting and doesn’t drive forward as he used too.

Benjani
Battles and battles, but his purple patch has become grey and looks shot shy in front of goal

Nugent
His big chance has come, but with Pompeys midfield struggling to create openings, was an isolated figure upfront and a frustrated one in the second

Manager Rating
Harry has stayed, but Pompeys frailties have also, we look short of creativity and low on confidence, new faces or the return of some familiar ones are needed soon, he has obviously cut ties with Taylor, the line was he was injured, but that seemed a thin veil.

Opponent Rating
Roy Keane was obviously able to play his trump card in Jones, and it certainly worked, he and Richardson were the difference and both took Pompey apart.