It was a disapointing stalemate for Liverpool at the hostile Fratton Park, putting in an average performance against Harry Redknapp’s Portsmouth side, who were unlucky not to come out with all 3 points.
Liverpool made 5 changes to their starting line-up including Peter Crouch starting for the first time this season in the Premiership.
Portsmouth – who looked at the start of the game like the away side with 5 across the middle – found it hard to settle early on and for the first 20 minutes or so Liverpool were on top, passing the ball around fluently and looking the most threatening.
Liverpool nearly captalised on their early domination, when Yossi Benayon cut in from the left to hit a hard low drive from outside the box, which was heading for the bottom left hand corner, for ex Liverpool Stopper David James to save well. Liverpool had a few more half chances in their spell of domination but just couldn’t capitalise, including a chance from Peter Crouch, which was saved well by James at his near post.
Half way through the first half Portsmouth started to get a hold on the game, getting a lot more of the ball and importantly keeping hold of it. Portsmouth had a brilliant chance on the half hour mark to take the lead when Arbeloa was judged to have been pulling Kanu’s shirt in the box by the linesman and Mike Riley pointed to the spot. Kanu looked as if he was going to hit it to his left from the spot with his run-up and Pepe Reina thought that as well diving athletically to his left to pull off an excellent save to keep the score level.
Both teams had chances to take the lead early on in the second half, firstly from an in-form Jermaine Pennant cross which was met by Crouch on the volley but unfortunately couldn’t get his strike on target.
Five minutes later Portsmouth’s John Utaka had a brilliant chance inside the Liverpool box when the ball fell lovely for him and was unmarked but disappointingly for the Portsmouth faithful he squandered such a great chance. Minutes later Andriy Voronin did superbly to control the ball on his chest and volleyed it over James’ head in the Pompey goal only to see his attempt bounce off the bar.
Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard came on for Liverpool after the hour mark. Gerrard looked like a man on a mission, and nearly made an instant impact when he bombed forward to slide Torres through on goal, for El Nino to hit it with his slightly weaker left foot and see it sail high and wide. Liverpool nearly snuck in a winner late on when Torres created a chance out of nothing when he got the ball out wide and crossed the ball into the box, for Andriy Voronin to slide in agonizingly close to getting a touch on it what would have made it 1-0 and given Liverpool all 3 points.
Maybe Rafa may now regret not starting the likes of Gerrard, Torres, Babel and leaving out Kuyt? I doubt it. But whatever side we had put out we still had more than enough quality to get all 3 points. A slightly disappointing display but let’s hope that Tuesday’s game is better.
Man of the Match: Pepe Reina
Next Up: Porto [A] (Tuesday) CL Group Matchday 1
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher (captain), Agger, Finnan, Benayoun, Alonso, Sissoko, Pennant, Crouch, Voronin. Subs – Hyypia, Babel, Torres, Gerrard, Itandje
Portsmouth: James, Hreidarsson, Campbell (captain), Distin, Johnson, Muntari, Davis, Diop, Utaka, Mwaruwari, . Subs – Pamarot, Ashdown, Kranjcar, Nugent, Taylor
Reported by Matthew Watson