Shamik Das

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Piq‘n’Prince oh so sweet for Pompey


Wembley, FA Cup Semi-Final:
Tottenham Hotspur 0-2 Portsmouth (After extra time)

AVRAM GRANT’S Portsmouth defied the odds to book an FA Cup Final date with Chelsea on May 15, extra time goals from Frederic Piquionne and Kevin-Prince Boateng seeing off their FA Cup-winning manager Harry Redknapp’s below-par Spurs.

Following a fifth round win over bitter rivals Southampton and today’s semi-final slaying of the man who won the cup for Pompey two years ago, Grant, who believes he was “harshly treated” by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, will hope to complete the fairytale by beating his former employers.

Portsmouth, who were relegated on the eve of today’s showdown, become only the fifth team who have been relegated to make the FA Cup final; on all four previous occasions - Manchester City in 1926, Leicester City in 1969, Brighton and Hove Albion in 1983 and Middlesbrough in 1997 - the relegated club has lost.


After a goalless 90 minutes, in which Spurs dominated - the excellent Gareth Bale causing problems down the left flank, Peter Crouch off target with several headers - Pompey took the lead in the 99th minute, Piquionne taking advantage of Michael Dawson’s slip to finish neatly from eight yards.

It was the umpteenth time over the two semis that a player has lost his footing on the newly relaid Wembley pitch. It was always bound to happen that eventually it would lead to a goal, though had Tottenham keeper Heurelho Gomes reacted quicker Piquionne might never have scored.

Within minutes of the restart Spurs thought they had levelled, Peter Crouch hooking the ball into net only for the goal to be ruled out for the slightest of fouls on David James, the relieved Pompey keeper hardly appealing, ditto his back line.

Then, as Spurs poured forward in a desperate attempt to take the game to penalties, they conceded one, Wilson Palacios crashing in to the back of Aruna Dindane four minutes from time, another decision that could have gone either way, another decision that went against Spurs.

Boateng, one of three Spurs old boys in the Portsmouth line-up, rifled in the spot kick, low and to the left, just beyond Gomes’s reach.

Anyone who still thinks the FA Cup doesn’t matter need only witness his joy, and the passion of his and Piquionne’s celebrations (see pictures above and videos below).


For Spurs fans, having wallowed in Schadenfreude at Arsenal’s Camp Nou stuffing in midweek, there’s the small matter of fourth place to fight for. The Lilywhites face the Gunners on Wednesday, followed by Chelsea and Man United in their next two games, with a potential winner-takes-all clash with City in the penultimate game of the season.

For Pompey and Grant, meanwhile, it’s a month of preparation, five games, virtually practice games, but against opponents who’ll be giving it their all, matches in which to hone formations, try different things, rest key players and leave no stone unturned ahead of the final.

What a way for all the star names who’ll be leaving Fratton Park to sign off, make history and end the most topsy-turvy of up-and-down seasons in style.

Don’t let anyone ever tell you there’s no more magic in the old competion.

Aston Villa 0-3 Chelsea
Official FA Cup website


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