Portsmouth 1-4 Arsenal
Portsmouth’s troubles deepened as Arsenal inflicted a 4-1 home
defeat on them to keep the Gunners in the hunt for the Premier
The club had earlier issued a statement denying being
formally served with a winding up petition by Her Majesty’s Revenue
and Customs in respect of disputed VAT, PAYE and National Insurance
contributions of a reported £3.5million.
While that matter may yet be resolved in a High Court hearing
early next month to avoid administration, it is clear Pompey – FA
Cup winners last year under Harry Redknapp – face an uphill battle
to save themselves from relegation come May 2010.
Arsenal fans, meanwhile, could well have the champagne on ice
in anticipation of what may yet prove a vintage year for Arsene
Wenger’s young Gunners – now just four points behind leaders
Chelsea and with a match in hand.
The visitors were always in command after Eduardo’s free-kick
had deflected off Younes Kaboul, before Samir Nasri drilled in a
second just before half-time and Wales teenager Aaron Ramsey
smashed home a third on 69 minutes.
Although Nadir Belhadj – one of several Pompey players set to
leave for African Nations Cup duty – pulled a goal back, Cameroon
midfielder Alex Song nodded in a fourth with 10 minutes left.
Wenger had confirmed before kick-off he expected injured
captain Cesc Fabregas to be out for around 10 days with a hamstring
problem – meaning the influential Spaniard would miss the FA Cup
third-round tie at West Ham this weekend as well as tonight’s
Pompey had beaten Liverpool here just before Christmas and
Kevin-Prince Boateng caused problems down the right and fired
in a shot from a tight angle which Manuel Almunia beat away at the
However, Arsenal looked dangerous on the break and Andrey
Arshavin collected a loose ball before drilling a shot from 20
Bacary Sagna’s cross from the right was glanced wide by
Eduardo, before the Croatian got away down the left and laid the
ball back into the path of Abou Diaby, who forced a good save from
Asmir Begovic at close range.
Pompey captain Aaron Mokoena fouled Ramsey some 25 yards out
in a central position – and it proved a costly error.
Eduardo drilled the 28th minute free-kick low, with the ball
deflecting off former Tottenham defender Kaboul and past a static
Hermann Hreidarsson on the right-hand post to give the visitors the
lead on 28 minutes.
Algerian midfielder Belhadj tried to relieve the pressure
with a determined run and angled shot, which flew past the far
However, in the 42nd minute it was 2-0 when Song – who will
not join up with Cameroon until the New Year – fed Eduardo in the
left of the area. He pulled the ball back for Ramsey, who picked
out Nasri – and the French midfielder drilled a low strike into the
To their credit, Portsmouth started the second half on the
offensive and in the 52nd minute Belhadj flashed the ball across
the six-yard box from the left.
The Fratton Park faithful chanted “where’s all our money
gone?”, and cheered when captain Mokoena was replaced by Anthony
Hassan Yebda – another African Nations Cup departure –
drilled a 20-yard effort straight at Almunia.
In the 65th minute there was a length stoppage as Boateng
needed treatment after falling heavily in the Arsenal penalty area.
The Portsmouth fans used the break in play to again vent
their anger towards owner Ali Al Faraj as chants of “sack the
board” and “you’re not fit to run a club” rang out.
But, in the 69th minute, the home fans were silenced when
Ramsey robbed Vanden Borre and charged past Frederic Piquionne
before lashing a left-foot shot into the net from the edge of the
The home side at least had something to shout about five
minutes later when Belhadj converted a low cross from Vanden Borre.
However, hopes of an unlikely home comeback were ended 10
minutes from time when Song headed in Nasri’s right-wing cross.