Pompey victory leaves Cats in mire
Sunderland's bid for survival will go to the wire after two defensive howlers allowed Portsmouth to claim a 3-1 win at Fratton Park on Monday. The Black Cats could have secured their top flight status with a win and they took the lead with a 59th-minute strike from Kenwyne Jones. But Portsmouth then scored twice inside seven minutes through John Utaka and Phil Bardsley's own-goal after a dreadful gaffe from Anton Ferdinand. Portsmouth wrapped up the victory three minutes from time after Armand Traore was allowed acres of space to angle his shot inside the far post. The only consolation for Sunderland ahead of next Sunday's final league game at home to Chelsea is that their top-flight future remains in their own hands. Sunderland remain a point better off than Hull, who host Manchester United, and two ahead of local rivals Newcastle. Other than when both sets of fans joined forced to revel in Alan Shearer's predicament at St James' Park the atmosphere at Fratton Park bordered on the soporific. Portsmouth were already safe after weekend results went their way but it was they who set the early pace. Glen Johnson, Portsmouth's player of the year, tricked his way into space on the right edge of the Sunderland box and floated a cross towards Peter Crouch. The England striker had his first header blocked and then saw his second rebound off the inside of the post and roll along the goal-line before Ferdinand slid in to clear. Sunderland responded positively. Danny Collins stretched to reach Leadbitter's pass and he pulled back an excellent cross for Steed Malbranque, who volleyed wide from 15 yards. Jones got the better of Sol Campbell with a strong turn to tee up Leadbitter just inside the box but the midfielder's drive was blocked by a brave dive from Sean Davis. Asmir Begovic, making his debut in the Portsmouth goal, then reacted smartly as the rebound fell to Malbranque to block the deflected strike with his right leg. Sunderland were struggling to deal with Portsmouth's width and Ferdinand required treatment on a cut above his left eye after clashing in the area with Crouch. When Sunderland could get Jones into the game he was proving a handful and he teed up Richardson with a delightful back-heel on the edge of the box but the England international spooned his shot high over the bar. Sunderland lacked the drive and hunger for a team in such desperate need of a win but they came within a hair's breadth of snatching a priceless half-time lead after Jones' downward glancing header struck the inside of the post and rolled across the goal-line. Hayden Mullins had lost the ball carelessly to Collins wide left and although the initial cross was too high, Malbranque lofted the ball back into the box and Jones stole between Campbell and Distin. Traore came on at half-time and his first contribution was to nick the ball off Malbranque and launch a swift counter-attack but his clipped cross was just behind Crouch and his header looped over the bar. Crouch was brought down on the edge of the box by Collins after Portsmouth had picked open the Sunderland defence with some slick midfield passing. Johnson's pulled the free-kick low and wide but Sunderland could not relieve the pressure and from a subsequent corner Ferdinand had to head clear after Crouch stole in at the far post. The match lit up after 59 minutes when Jones, a constant thorn in Portsmouth's side whenever they managed to get him involved, finished a swift counter-attack. It was Sunderland's first away goal since the north-east derby against Newcastle on February 1 and sparked a series of acrobatic flips from Jones. But at the other end, Crouch's header ricocheted off Leadbitter back into his own box and Utaka held off Campbell to turn and rifle his first goal of the season past Fulop. And seven minutes later Sunderland were behind after a howler from Ferdinand, who completely missed a routine long ball and allowed Utaka to steal into the box again. Utaka dragged the ball past Fulop and although full-back Phil Bardsley did his best with a flying challenge he only succeeded in turning the ball into his own net. Sunderland tried desperately to force an equaliser and Jones had a volley saved at point-blank range. But Portsmouth wrapped up the win with three minutes remaining after Traore was given too much time to pick his spot inside the far post.