ANFIELD ONLINE MATCH REPORT
PORTSMOUTH 1-3 LIVERPOOL
FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
Sunday 7th May 2006 @ Fratton Park
Liverpool ended their Premiership campaign on a winning note as a goal each from Robbie Fowler and substitutes Peter Crouch and Djibril Cisse gave them a 3-1 win at Portsmouth.
But that 11th straight success was not enough to overhaul Manchester United, easy winners at home to Charlton, in second place and an injury to Xabi Alonso, which saw him carried off before half-time, was a headache manager Rafael Benitez had been keen to avoid ahead of next week's FA Cup final with West Ham.
Pompey's goal also came from a substitute - Ognjen Koroman - on a day when the Fratton Park faithful had come to celebrate the achievements of last week as much as anything, with a win at Wigan having ensured top-flight football will be played on the south coast next season.
Benitez had more immediate concerns and opted to protect five players by placing them on the bench and it was no surprise Fowler was recalled given he has just signed a new contract and is cup-tied anyway.
But with Alonso, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher all retained the opportunity for misfortune was always there and so it proved three minutes before the break when the Spaniard was hurt.
An awkward fall with no-one near him was his undoing and referee Graham Poll was quick to stop play so he could receive treatment on his right ankle, with Matthew Taylor picking up a booking for complaining a promising Pompey attack had been broken up in the process.
Liverpool had started strongly and the recalled Mohamed Sissoko might have done better than to head wide in the second minute after Gerrard had picked him out at the near post from a corner.
Goalkeeper Dean Kiely had only one significant save to make in the first period however, rushing out to use his bulk to block Gerrard's drive after a misplaced header from Brian Priske had been seized upon greedily by the England man.
Pompey were eventually able to settle and news United had strolled to a comfortable lead at Old Trafford may have contributed to the away side's gradual deflation as the half wound down.
The Fratton Park faithful sang the praises of Andres D'Alessandro, Pompey's most assured individual on the ball, and urged the board to make his loan signing from Wolfsberg a permanent one.
Taylor miscued a shot after the Argentinian had teed him up and Jerzy Dudek, in goal for Jose Reina, was forced into a stoppage-time save when a D'Alessandro free-kick was headed upwards by Carragher to allow Benjani Mwaruwari to nip in and nod goalwards.
Jan Kromkamp had replaced Alonso but Benitez resisted making further changes at the break.
Fernando Morientes could not have complained if he had been taken off but lost no time in firing over before Fowler, who had profited from a slip by Pompey captain Dejan Stefanovic, almost set him up.
A goal was coming though and Fowler showed why some believe he would be a useful addition to the England squad now Wayne Rooney is injured.
Morientes gave him only a glimpse of the netting in a crowded box but he lost no time in slotting past Kiely with his trusty left foot despite the best efforts of Stefanovic and Linvoy Primus to close the gap.
It was his fifth goal since rejoining the club from Manchester City in January.
Pompey sent Koroman on for Richard Hughes just after the hour mark and the ever-willing Sean Davis was unfortunate when he ended up on the turf as a deflected effort from Benjani dropped behind the Liverpool defence. The former Spurs man still tried to get his shot in from a prone position but Dudek gathered.
Crouch played the last 22 minutes, replacing Morientes, while D'Alessandro's afternoon ended at that point with Wayne Routledge coming on.
There was another nervous moment for Liverpool when Sami Hyypia was hurt blocking Benjani in the act of shooting but the Finn was soon back in the fray.
Liverpool's final substitution paid instant dividends when Harry Kewell invited Djibril Cisse, who had replaced Fowler, to steal into space on the right of the box and when Kiely could only spoon the resulting cross into Crouch's path the England man was left with a simple finish.
Pompey were back in it straight away though as Koroman recorded his first goal for the club seconds later, slotting home after Routledge had picked him out beyond the back post.
But Cisse had the last word, firing calmly past Kiely after Crouch had put him clear with a ball from the halfway line.
» Other Media/Press Reports
|Match Report filed: 7 May 2006|