ENHAM (0) vs PORTSMOUTH (2)
After extra-time, 0-0 after 90 minutes
PORTSMOUTH manager Avram Grant toasted “a crazy day” after the crisis club defied administration and relegation to reach a fairytale FA Cup final.
Pompey weathered a barrage of pressure to take much-fancied Tottenham to extra-time before Frederic Piquionne and Kevin-Prince Boateng earned an unlikely triumph.
That the Premier League’s bottom club succeeded just hours after their relegation was confirmed, and despite the financial desolation that has haunted Fratton Park this season, was remarkable enough.
That they did so against a Tottenham side managed by their former boss Harry Redknapp and including three ex-Pompey stars merely added irony to the heady brew. For good measure, a former Spurs player – Boateng – netted the decisive penalty, while Grant can look forward to returning to Wembley to face his old club, Chelsea, in the final on 15 May.
“After what has happened this season and to see players give everything and not take the easy solution and not give up and to be in the final, it is a crazy day,” said Grant. “We could write a book about the many things against us this season.”
Portsmouth’s financial woes – they entered administration in February with debts of around £70m – have been eased slightly after yesterday’s win guaranteed at least £900,000 in prize money, plus another £1m in television cash and gate receipts.
Grant added: “This feeling is unbelievable – people don’t know what it’s like to be the manager this season. To come day after day praying there is no news because any news is bad news. Now we have the best news.”
Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp admitted it had been “Portsmouth’s day” but was left with a bitter taste in his mouth. Having complained that the poor state of the pitch led to Pompey’s opener, he also lamented “a good goal” by Peter Crouch that was disallowed.
Redknapp may wonder how his side failed to score, having tested Portsmouth goalkeeper David James with increasing frequency as the match wore on. Pompey turned the semi-final on its head in the 99th minute when Michael Dawson’s slip allowed Piquionne to steal in and slot under Heurelho Gomes. And then with three minutes remaining Boateng sealed victory from the spot after Wilson Palacios hauled down Aruna Dindane.
Redknapp blasts ‘farcical’ surface
WEMBLEY’S much-maligned pitch came in for further criticism after Michael Dawson slipped in the build-up to Portsmouth’s opening goal.
“The pitch is a disgrace,” said Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp. “For a professional team to have to play on that is farcical. How can you play on a pitch you can’t stand up on?”
The game was the second in 24 hours on the surface, after Chelsea beat Aston Villa on Saturday.
Redknapp added: “Yesterday I saw goalkeepers trying to kick balls but fall over. It’s impossible play on.”