Pompey sink Spurs to reach FA Cup final

Frederic Piquionne and Kevin Prince Boateng grabbed the goals which

fired stricken Portsmouth into the May 15 showpiece amid fairytale

scenes. Piquionne struck nine minutes into extra-time in a game few

gave them a chance of winning then Boateng scored from the penalty

spot, setting up a final against Chelsea when manager Avram Grant

will face his former club. “You can break many things but you can’t

break our spirit,” read a banner, quoting the Pompey manager. It

was an emotional victory for the Israeli. He has been restricted by

Pompey’s financial meltdown and it is still unclear which players

will be allowed to play in the final due to bonuses and contract

clauses. Pompey should qualify for the Europa League by reaching

the final but they have not applied for a UEFA licence – they are

playing purely for the glory and are refusing to go down quietly.

It was also a victory against former Pompey boss Harry Redknapp.

Redknapp facing the club he guided to FA Cup glory in 2008 was not

the only case of those involved playing against their former side –

ex-Pompey pair Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch started in attack for

Spurs. Jamie O’Hara did not face his parent club so watched it as a

pundit from the television studio – he will be back for the final –

but Grant was able to welcome back Boateng, who left White Hart

Lane at the start of the season. Ricardo Rocha and Michael Brown

were Pompey’s other former Spurs players, while on-loan Lens

striker Aruna Dindane played his final game before a payment to the

French club is triggered. Pompey’s main concern has been keeping

the club afloat, so Dindane was saved for the semi-final, and he

had an early sight of goal when Piquionne sent him through but

Michael Dawson, who passed a late fitness test on his Achilles,

made a last-ditch tackle. Piquionne also had an early effort with a

powerful run and a shot that was deflected before Heurelho Gomes

saved. Spurs’ threat came through Defoe, who was back in the

starting XI after a hamstring problem. The England striker, jeered

by the Pompey fans, stabbed over the bar under the challenge of

Aaron Mokoena after Vedran Corluka flicked on David Bentley’s

corner. Free-flowing football was made difficult by the surface at

Wembley, with the pitch cutting up in areas and players slipping

over, in Steve Finnan’s case just 12 seconds after kick-off. Set

pieces were an obvious tactic to employ, with Piquionne finding

himself unmarked from a corner but failing to get power on his

shot. Boateng also fired a free-kick just wide of Gomes’ post. At

the other end, David James was called into action when Tom

Huddlestone crossed and Crouch climbed above his marker to get a

header on target. The first clear-cut chance came when Hassan Yebda

slid Piquionne through and Gomes used his legs to save the

Frenchman’s finish – Pompey had the better of the first half and

they sensed an upset. Just after the interval, however, Defoe had

sight of goal from close range and his finish was bravely blocked

by Rocha. Pompey continued to attack, Dindane scampered past Gareth

Bale and his chipped cross found Piquionne with just Gomes to beat

but his header went straight at the Brazilian. Redknapp’s response

was to bring on Roman Pavlyuchenko for Defoe just before the hour

mark, with Pompey fans taunting the striker on his walk to the

bench. That came just before Spurs had a shout for a penalty turned

down when the ball struck Finnan’s hand. Crouch had the next

chance, heading wide from a Bentley corner after James had flapped

at the set piece, then he went over from close range from Bale’s

cross. Mokoena had put Crouch off, then the Pompey defender almost

scored an own goal when he tried to clear Corluka’s cross but he

managed to clear off his own line. In an end-to-end finale to the

90 minutes, Crouch hit the post when he got his head on Bale’s deep

cross and Corluka had an effort cleared off the line. Piquionne’s

goal came nine minutes into extra-time when Marc Wilson’s free-kick

was met by Boateng. Dawson slipped at the crucial moment and

Piquionne tucked his finish away through Gomes’ legs. Crouch hit

the post and had a goal disallowed as Pompey held on, with Boateng

adding to the scoreline when Wilson Palacios brought down Dindane.