Crouch brace boosts Pompey
Portsmouth claimed a crucial victory in their battle against relegation as they beat Everton 2-1.
Last Updated: 21/03/09 3:07pm
Portsmouth claimed a crucial victory in their battle against relegation as they came from behind to beat Everton 2-1 at Fratton Park.
Leighton Baines broke the deadlock with a magnificent free-kick after just four minutes but Pompey have become increasingly resilient under Paul Hart and they responded strongly.
Peter Crouch made good use of his height to equalise in the 22nd minute and the giant striker then powered home his second header of the afternoon to put Portsmouth ahead with 15 minutes remaining.
Everton looked to put the hosts under pressure in the closing stages but could not find a goal and Sean Davis came close to netting a third for Pompey as he struck the post from distance.
Portsmouth held on to pull further clear of trouble and dent Everton's hopes of securing a UEFA Champions League spot.
The visitors got off to the perfect start when they took the lead after just four minutes.
Sylvain Distin bundled over Louis Saha, who was leading the attack in the absence of injured Tim Cahill, to concede a free-kick just outside the penalty arc.
Baines stepped forward, then curled the ball left-footed over the wall and in off David James' far post as the Fratton Park faithful were stunned.
Portsmouth - who had started the afternoon out of the relegation zone only on goal difference - looked to respond, and Niko Kranjcar lashed his shot over the crossbar from 25 yards.
Pompey grabbed an equaliser on 22 minutes, after referee Peter Walton had given a corner when Glen Johnson's shot did not appear to come off Baines.
The delivery was only half-cleared, with Kranjcar lofting the ball back into the danger area. Johnson headed it across the six-yard box, where Crouch arrived to power in his second goal in as many games.
Fratton Park suddenly found its voice, as the hosts pressed forward. The home fans screamed for a penalty when Younes Kaboul went down under a strong challenge from Joleon Lescott, but the tackle by the England international was fair.
After 35 minutes, Jo was presented with a golden chance to put Everton back in front when the ball dropped to him on the edge of the area following Sol Campbell's looping header.
The Brazilian struck the ball well enough, but dragged it wide.
The home fans were again claiming a penalty at the start of the second half when the ball bounced up onto Baines in the six-yard box, but referee Walton was unmoved.
On 53 minutes, Nugent - born on Merseyside and who supported Everton as a boy - sent over a floating cross from the left wing, which Crouch diverted goalwards with a looping header, but Everton keeper Tim Howard collected on the line.
The American was then out of his goal quickly to block bravely at the feet of Nugent, who had cut in towards the near post.
Portsmouth were enjoying their best spell, as Howard had to acrobatically cut out another cross into the box.
Kranjcar just failed to get on the end of a through-ball down the centre as Pompey continued to press.
Kaboul's cross from the right almost sneaked in at the near post, before, with 16 minutes left, Kanu replaced Nugent.
From the resulting corner, which Davis floated right across goal, Crouch leapt to power Pompey in front with another close-range header.
Davis then struck the base of the post, with Howard beaten, from 20 yards as Pompey finished the match in style to give themselves renewed hope of beating the drop.
Paul Hart's men left the field to a standing ovation and chants of 'we are staying up' ringing around Fratton Park.
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