Top Gunners add to Pompey misery

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.