|Saturday 18th October 2003
Fratton Park, Portsmouth
PORTSMOUTH 1-0 LIVERPOOL
|After this game: Pos 13th Pl 9 Pts 11|
|MATCH REPORT - Portsmouth 1-0 Liverpool|
Patrik Berger's triumphant early strike against the club who gave him away was sufficient to earn a golden victory for Portsmouth.
But the big story at Fratton Park was another chapter of Liverpool's demise as the Anfield side fell to a third consecutive Premiership defeat.
Pompey needed to repair a lapsed start to top-flight life and did so with guts, style and no little talent.
And in Berger they had just the man for the big occasion. The man who led the Czech Republic to the Euro 96 final is still only 29 and still wowing them with his left-side midfield skills.
Yet somehow, Gerard Houllier gave him just one first-team start last season and decided he was surplus to requirements.
His move to the south coast has been a dream so far - and this was a dream start which provided a glowing finish.
In the end Portsmouth deserved to at least double their advantage when Yakubu Ayegbini's shot came back off the crossbar but they will settle for a short-head verdict.
Liverpool, though, should not settle for that at all. They are in a crisis which substitute Florent Sinama-Pongolle's two near-misses right at the death could not disguise. Without the injured Michael Owen again they looked toothless.
The visitors should have been ahead even before Berger stunned them with his third-minute strike, almost caressing the ball beyond Jerzy Dudek's grasp after Sebastian Schemmel collected a glorious Sheringham cross-field ball down the right flank and deposited it to the near-post.
It came just seconds after Heskey's almost casual shot bounced back off a post after he had shrugged off Dejan Stefanovic's attentions to get onto El Hadji Diouf's through-ball in the box and face up Shaka Hislop.
But although it needed a much better intervention by Stefanovic - who went off before half-time - to end a twinkling run by Kewell and centre-back partner Arjan de Zeeuw - who cleared a Steven Gerrard free-kick off the line - Liverpool looked out-gunned before the break.
Berger was chasing everywhere in extended celebration of his goal and saw two more goalbound efforts charged down, once by Sami Hyypia and then Dudek.
The Czech, who won the German title with Borussia Dortmund nearly 10 years ago, got so excited he was also booked for dissent by referee Steve Dunn in the incident which brought Gerrard's free-kick.
Boris Zivkovic was harshly ruled to have handled and Gerrard curled the ball low around the defensive wall to squeeze under Hislop's body.
However, de Zeeuw was ideally placed and had the presence of mind to scrape the ball off the line.
Pompey looked dodgy at times at the back but their attack never lacked for drive and determination - especially Nigerian battler Ayegbini, a constant muscular menace.
Add the delicate touches of Sheringham and Berger and Steve Stone and it was easy to see why Liverpool struggled.
Had Nigel Quashie not misguidedly leapt for a dipping Schemmel cross after 36 minutes and taken it right off the unmarked Sheringham's toe things could have been worse for Liverpool.
Houllier's troops had to improve in the second half and for a while it seemed that their midweek UEFA cup win over Slovenia's Olimpija had restored their confidence.
They had Pompey's nervous defence running backwards soon after the break and John Arne Riise had a half-chance from a poorly-cleared corner which he blazed over the crossbar.
Heskey cut in to produce a good save from Hislop but a few debatable decisions by referee Steve Dunn stirred the home crowd and seemed to lift their team's hearts again.
Berger needed no urging. He put a beautiful ball on Ayegbini's chest and it was a real pity the Nigerian could not control it as he eased into the area. Dudek took his chance to save the day.
Then Ayegbini again, twisting and turning, went past two defenders before Igor Biscan crudely brought him down on the edge of the box.
Biscan then stunned his team-mates as well with a misplaced header from a Pompey free-kick which he smacked against his own crossbar.
Pompey proved once again that they have the quality and certainly the heart to play at this level, with Amdy Faye their Senegal midfielder a major factor.
But the unstinting work of old war-horses like Stone, Sheringham and Dutchman de Zeeuw can never be underestimated.
Portsmouth Hislop, Schemmel, De Zeeuw, Stefanovic (Foxe 35), Zivkovic, Stone, Quashie (Sherwood 90), Faye, Berger, Sheringham, Ayegbini.
Subs Not Used: Wapenaar, Taylor, Roberts.
Booked: Berger, Faye.
Liverpool Dudek, Finnan, Henchoz, Hyypia, Riise, Diouf (Sinama Pongolle 64), Gerrard, Biscan, Smicer (Le Tallec 60), Heskey, Kewell.
Subs Not Used: Kirkland, Traore, Welsh.
Booked: Diouf, Biscan.
Ref: S Dunn (Gloucestershire).
Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp
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BBC Sport 'Pompey stun Liverpool'
|Match Report filed: 18th October 2003|