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

League title.

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

contest.

Pompey had beaten Liverpool here just before Christmas and

started well.

Kevin-Prince Boateng caused problems down the right and fired

in a shot from a tight angle which Manuel Almunia beat away at the

near post.

However, Arsenal looked dangerous on the break and Andrey

Arshavin collected a loose ball before drilling a shot from 20

yards over.

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

post.

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

bottom corner.

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

Vanden Borre.

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

box.

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.