Yakubu wins classic encounter
By Alex Dunn
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
A hat-trick from Yakubu Aiyegbeni secured a 4-3 win for Portsmouth over Fulham.A majestic hat-trick from Yakubu Aiyegbeni settled a classic of an encounter on the South Coast, as Portsmouth ran out 4-3 winners over Fulham.
In a game that has been unrivaled this season in terms of excitement, the pacey Nigerian was the difference between the two sides.
For the defensive pragmatist, there was plenty to bemoan, but that should not overshadow an engrossing encounter at Fratton Park that celebrated the essence of The Premiership, if not its finesse.
Pompey boss Harry Redknapp has rued his lack of success in the transfer market this summer, but the quintessential wheeler dealer seems to have unearthed a player of unlimited potential in Ricardo Fuller.
Prised from Preston on a pay-as-you-play deal, the jet-heeled Jamaican combined an electric mix of power and pace to deliver the type of debut rarely bettered and that will have left bruised Fulham defenders picking up deflated egos in the morning.
In the opening exchanges, it was Fuller and Yakubu who started the busiest, playing off each other's similar qualities and causing untold problems for the Fulham backline.
Fuller blazed the first effort of the game over the top of Edwin van der Sar's goal and then the industrious Dane Claus Jensen was denied at the other end by a feisty Linvoy Primus block.
Pompey's new boy then turned adroitly round a ponderous challenge from Alain Goma but this time his attempt, albeit on target, was easily smothered by van der Sar.
The impressive Luis Boa Morte fed Tomasz Radzinski but again Primus was on hand to challenge efficiently and then in the 18th minute, the game was granted the goal it richly deserved.
A marauding Yakubu robbed a sluggish Moritz Voltz down the right flank and after his attempt on goal was blocked, the ball fell to the mercurial playmaker Eyal Berkovic.
Controlling the ricochet with all the deftness to which he is famed, Berkovic then produced a sublime volley from 18 yards past the despairing dive of Fulham's Dutchman.
Immediately from the restart, Fulham launched onto the offensive and Shaka Hislop was required to be sharp off his line to block from an advancing Radzinski.
However, Fulham's respite was only temporary, as Fuller shrugged off three lethargic challenges only to be felled by a desperate lunge from Boa Morte to win a penalty.
Yakubu stepped up to dispatch, after his spot-kick bounced off the underside off the bar and in, to double Pompey's advantage.
Hislop was then forced into another sharp stop, again from Radzinski, before Yakubu scored Portsmouth's third goal in nine pulsating minutes.
After Fuller rose to flick over the head of bedraggled Goma, his strike partner bore down on goal and rifled a majestic angled drive past van der Sar to send Fratton Park into unrivaled ecstasy.
Whilst other sides in the division would have dropped deep, such is Portsmouth charm and frequent undoing, they continued to attack and allowed Fulham a lifeline back into the contest.
On 38 minutes, Andy Cole dispatched with customary opportunistic aplomb from a superb Boa Morte cross - guiding a header over the head over Hislop to reduce the deficit.
The same pair, who both looked sharp, then reversed roles and after Cole fed the Portuguese winger to expose slack defending, Boa Morte finished with an assured strike.
If the first period set a frenetic precedence, then the second delivered with the same intensity and excitement.
First, Berkovic has denied by a fine piece of defending from Carlos Bocanegra and then Fuller cut inside, but this time his effort was into the throat of the Fulham custodian.
After early Pompey pressure, Chris Coleman's side set about finding an equaliser and could indeed have levelled after Boa Morte flashed an effort across goal.
French midfielder Sylvain Legwinski should have silenced Fratton Park, but Hislop blocked bravely and then the Trinidad & Tobago keeper produced a world class stop from Cole.
Five yards out and unattended, Cole rose and directed his header for what seemed like a certain goal, until Hislop arched himself backwards and tipped over.
The miss was costly and within minutes, Yakubu was celebrating an impressive treble. Shrugging off the ineffective Goma, he exchanged passes with Berkovic and netted with poise and quality past a disbelieving van der Sar.
Surely the game had found its winner, but Bocanegra had other ideas and his far post header made the score 4-3, with a full fifteen intense minutes remaining.
Substitute Collins John hit a powerful snapshot that could have brought a leveller and then Yakubu should have added his fourth, after being fed by Redknapp's attacking substitute Tresor Lomana Lua Lua.
The final moments were unrelenting and save for the brave blocks of Portsmouth's defenders, Fulham may indeed have taken a share of spoils in what was a truly classic encounter at Fratton Park.
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|Shots on target||8||9|
|Shots off target||8||9|